Vehicle sales in Indonesia declined by 20.4% year-on-year in February to 35,757 units, according to data released by the country's largest brand distributor - Toyota Astra Motor. Month-on-month sales declined only slightly - by 1.8%, a tentative sign that the market has begun to stablise compared with sharp month-on-month declines in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Toyota outperformed significantly during the month, with sales dropping by just 9.2% year-on-year to 13,839 units. Its market share jumped to 37.2% as a result, from 34.2% a year earlier.

The outlook for the market remains very uncertain, however, as unemployment continues to rise and with the government predicting exports to drop by up to 30% this year. Full-year GDP growth is widely forecast to be between 4-5%, with resilient domestic demand offsetting declining exports.

The government is stepping up implementation of its US$6.5bn stimulus plan to help support the domestic economy, but it remains to be seen if this will be enough to offset the effects of declining employment and lower commodity prices. Gaikindo, the industry association, sees domestic vehicle sales dropping by up to 30% this year compared with record volumes of 607,000 units in 2008.

Tony Pugliese