New-car sales in Southeast Asia's six major countries climbed by a combined 14% in March from a year earlier to 316,736 vehicles, the fifth straight monthly gain and returning sales for the month to a level not seen in four years.
Sales rose in all six nations and posted double-digit gains in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, underscoring firm consumer spending in the region.
New-cars sales turned a corner in 2016, growing for the first time in three years. But growth reached only 3% and it was not until the start of this year that the recovery moved into the fast lane.
The star performer has been Thailand, Southeast Asia's second-biggest car market. March sales soared 17% to 84,801 units, the third straight double-digit jump. Passenger car sales zoomed up 40%. Japan's Honda Motor, Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor, Mazda Motor and Mitsubishi Motors were at the top of the pack in this area, posting increases of 30-70%. That more than compensated for weakness in sales of pickup trucks and other commercial vehicles. Sales of 1-ton-class pickup trucks, which is a category that includes SUVs, rose by only 8% in March, and some manufacturers, including Toyota and Mitsubishi Motors, even saw sales decline in this area.
New-cars sales in Indonesia, the region's largest market, grew 8% in March, rising past 100,000 units for the first time in four months. Automakers there are competing to sell "low-cost green cars" to consumers keen on eco-friendly technologies. Fuel consumption was a main theme at the Indonesia International Motor Show that just ended.
With a gain of 10%, a recovery was also evident in Malaysia, where car sales skidded in 2016. March was the second straight month of double-digit sales growth there.
For the January-March quarter, new-car sales in Southeast Asia grew 11% to 826,545 vehicles, led by a 20% jump in the Philippines and a 16% rise in Thailand. At least for now, new-car sales in Southeast Asia appear to be back on track.
This article was first published on Asia.Nikkei.com on May 9th, 2017