New vehicle sales in southeast Asia's six largest markets combined continued to strengthen in the third quarter of 2018, with total volumes rising by 9.7% to 899,541 units from 820,135 units in the same period of last year, according to data collected by AsiaMotorBusiness.com from the mainstream local trade associations.
This compares with sales growth of 7.5% in the second quarter and just 1.6% in the first quarter, resulting in a 6.3% sales increase in the first nine months of the year to 2,574,975 units. This, despite moderately slower economic growth in most countries in the region while weakening currencies have forced some central banks to hike interest rates.
Thailand continues to be the main driver of growth for the region's vehicle market, with sales rising by 22% in the third quarter and by over 20% to 746,584 units year-to-date. The country's economy expanded strongly in the first half of the year, by 4.7%, and is forecast to grow by around 4.5% over the full year. The vehicle market is expected to exceed 1 million units this year.
Indonesia, the largest market in the region, expanded by 12% in the third quarter, helping to lift cumulative nine-month sales by 6.5% to 856,439 units. GDP growth picked up moderately in the second quarter, to just under 5.3%, and further similar growth is expected for the second half of the year despite a series of interest rate hikes in recent months. Full-year vehicle sales are expected to exceed 1.1m units.
Malaysia also had a strong third quarter, with vehicle sales rising by over 16% – helping to lift cumulative nine-month sales by 6.6% to 454,971units. Here a three-month sales tax holiday prompted buyers to pull sales forward, but volumes fell sharply in September one new taxes were introduced and this weakness is expected to continue in the final quarter of the year.
New vehicle sales in the Philippines continued to fall sharply in the third quarter, by over 16%, resulting in an almost 14% decline in the first nine months of the year to 261,057 units, according to data released by industry association CAMPI.
The market has been under pressure since the beginning of the year after a new tax system was introduction which led to higher prices. Domestic sentiment has also been hit this year by a sharply weaker peso and rising inflation, prompting the central bank to hike interest rates by 150 basis points since April. GDP growth slowed to 6% in the second quarter from 6.6% in the first quarter and will likely slip further in the second half of the year.
Sales in Vietnam turned positive in the third quarter, by 6.8% to 123,060 units, after a weak first half held back by issues with import procedures. Cumulative nine-month sales were 0.9% higher at 186,422 units, after declining by close to 8% in 2017, according to data released by industry association VAMA.
Economic growth in Vietnam has been strong this year, with third-quarter GDP growth estimated at 6.9% – only slightly down on the 7.1% growth reported in the first half of the year. The dong exchange rate has been relatively stable and the central bank's benchmark rate is unchanged this year.
The vehicle market is expected to strengthen from here, helped by recovering imports from neighbouring ASEAN countries.
Indonesia's new vehicle market continued to gain momentum in the third quarter of 2018, with sales rising by 12% to 302,660 units from 270,306 units a year earlier despite increasingly strong headwinds in the form of rising interest rates and a falling rupiah.
The market has benefitted from the continued rebound in commercial vehicle sales from extremely depressed levels in 2016, while aggressive promotional activity and new models have helped the passenger vehicle market post a moderate rise this year.
Economic growth in the country is expected to have been reasonably buoyant in the third quarter, at just over 5.30%, moderately better than the 5.16% first-half growth.
In the first nine months of the year the vehicle market expanded by 6.5% to 856,439 units compared with 803,812 units in the same period of last year, according to data gathered by industry association Gaikindo. Commercial vehicle sales jumped by 20% to 204,558 units in this period while passenger vehicles sales were just 3% higher at 651,881 units.
Mitsubishi Motors almost doubled its sales year-to-date to 112,679 units, reflecting strong demand for its Xpander compact MPV which was introduced just over a year ago. This strong growth has come mainly at the expense of Toyota and Honda, which saw their sales fall by 7.4% to 267,400 units and by 15.1% to 117,742 units respectively in the nine-month period.
Ongoing infrastructure investment and continued growth in the construction and mining sectors have fuelled strong demand for medium and heavy trucks this year, with Hino, Isuzu and Fuso all enjoying strong growth.
The overall market has exceeded expectations this year given the strong economic headwinds facing emerging markets around the world, with Gaikindo at the beginning of the year forecasting full-year sales to rise by just 2% to 1.1 million units. It remain to be seen whether the recent strong growth can be sustained in the fourth quarter.
New vehicle sales in Thailand continued to surge ahead in the third quarter of 2018, by over 22% to 257,466 units from 210,732 units a year earlier, based on wholesale data collected by the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).
Sales in the first nine months of the year increased by just over 20% to 746,584 units compared with 620,708 units in the same period of last year, driven by strong broad-based economic growth in the country.
The latest available data shows second-quarter GDP growth at 4.6% year-on-year after growing by 4.9% in the first quarter, reflecting rising private sector investment and government spending, buoyant farm prices, rising exports and strong consumer confidence. The central bank has left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.5% this year
The market continues to build on last year's strong rebound after a four-year decline from peak volumes of 1.43 million units in 2012. Replacement demand has also increased sharply over the last year, with most owners of vehicles bought under the previous government's first-time buyer incentive programme able to claim tax rebates equivalent to up to 10% of the purchase cost of their vehicles after a five-year lock-in period.
Sales of pickup trucks rose by 20% to 314,688 units in the nine-month period, reflecting rising rural incomes, while sales of pickup-based passenger vehicles were up by 12% at 45,811 units. Sales of passenger cars also grew strongly, by close to 19% to 291,091 units, and SUV sales jumped by over 58% to 60,575 units.
The Federation has upgraded its full-year market forecast to between 960,000-980,000 units, up from an earlier forecast of 900,000 units, while some automakers now expect sales to exceed 1 million units this year.
Malaysia's new vehicle market expanded by over 16% to 165,257 units in the third quarter of 2018 from 142,225 units a year earlier, according to registration data released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).
This follows a 7.3% rise in the second quarter, with sales lifted by the scrapping of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) at the beginning of June by the newly-elected government under Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Vehicle buyers rushed into the market ahead of the introduction a new 10% Sales and Services Tax (SST) at the beginning of September.
As had been widely expected, sales in September fell sharply – by 24% – and the outlook for the fourth quarter is equally as negative given the amount of forward-buying that took place in the June-August period.
Economic growth has slowed significantly in recent months, with second quarter GDP growth falling to 4.5% from 5.4% in the first quarter, although this is due mainly to slowing export growth. The domestic economy, including private consumption and government spending, has remained reasonably strong.