Sales of new vehicles in southeast Asia’s six largest markets rebounded strongly in the second quarter of 2021, by 130% to589,899 units from 256,451 units in the same period of last year, according to data compiled exclusively for Just Auto from local industry sources.

The Q2 rebound follows a flat performance in the first quarter, resulting in an almost 35% rise in first half sales to 1,282,860 units from 950,922 units a year earlier. Economies in the region began to recover in the second quarter from depressed year-earlier levels, when governments imposed strict lockdowns to help control the initial spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The second quarter economic recovery was helped by fiscal stimulus measures and record low interest rates, while export activity also rebounded due to pent-up global demand. Domestic consumption generally remained sluggish, reflecting higher unemployment, weakened purchasing power, continuing social restrictions and bans on foreign tourist arrivals which continue to affect the all-important travel and tourism sectors.

Vehicle markets in some countries were lifted by tax cuts, as governments looked to support their domestic manufacturing industries. Sales in the region remain at well below pre-pandemic levels, however, reflecting the depth of last year’s decline.

Slowest growth in the first half of the year was reported in Thailand, of just 7.2% to 308,983 units, with the country one again relinquishing top spot in the regional table to Indonesia. The two best-performing markets, were Singapore and the Philippines, the latter being one of the countries in the region worst affected by the pandemic.

The emergence of the more dangerous Delta and Alpha strains of the COVID virus in the second quarter has led to new social and business restrictions in the region. Malaysia fully locked down once again at the beginning of June, resulting in a 96% fall in vehicle sales that month. Indonesia imposed similar restrictions at the beginning of July, while other countries in the region have gradually ramped restrictions over the last two months.

The new surge in virus infections and the resulting lockdowns have hurt consumer and business confidence once again across the region. Economists fear that the economic rebound that was underway in the second quarter will have lost much of its momentum and that region’s economic recovery will be significantly delayed.

New vehicle sales in the Philippines expanded by almost 56% to 162,920 units in the first half of 2021after declining by over 31% to 285,512 units in 2020, based on data released by the main local automotive associations. While the market here has rebounded strongly from weak year-earlier levels, the Philippines is one of the southeast Asian countries worst hit by the pandemic and economic recovery generally has been slow. GDP shrank by a further 4.2% in the first quarter of 2021 after a 9.5% decline in the whole of 2020.

Vietnam‘s new vehicle sales increased by close to 32% to 69,415 units in the second quarter despite a decline in June as the government tightened restrictions in response to a record surge in coronavirus infections in the country. First half sales were also up by 32% at 135,606 units, reflecting the strengthening economic recovery in the country. Preliminary data shows second-quarter GDP grew by 6.6% after growing by 4.7% in the first quarter, driven primarily by a strong rebound in exports.


The Indonesian vehicle market rebounded strongly in the second quarter of 2021, by 760%to 206,443 units from 24,042 units in the same period of last year, according to member wholesale data compiled by industry association Gaikindo.

The strong second quarter came against extremely depressed year-earlier volumes, when sales plunged by almost 90% after the government imposed a strict lockdown to help control the initial spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The market remains at well below pre-pandemic levels, however, reflecting the depth of last year’s decline.

The economy is expected to have grown by over 4.5% year-on-year in the second quarter after declining by a further 0.7% in the first quarter, driven by a strong rebound in exports and investment and a moderate recovery in consumer spending. Bank Indonesia has kept its benchmark interest rate at a historic low of 3.50% this year to help stimulate domestic consumption.

Vehicle sales in the second quarter were also lifted by the suspension in March 2021 of the luxury tax on vehicles with engines smaller than 1500cc, as the government looked to kick-start the domestic economy. The tax cut has since been extended until the end of August to provide additional support to the local vehicle industry.

Total vehicle sales in the first six months of 2021 increased by almost 51% to 393,469 units from 260,932 units in the same period of last year, with passenger vehicle sales rising by over 46% to 291,190 units and commercial vehicle sales surging by close to 66% to 102,279 units.

The resurgence of the coronavirus in the country since May, in the form of the Delta variant, forced the government to impose its strictest nationwide lockdown yet at the beginning of July – as the country’s healthcare system struggled to cope with record numbers of daily infections and serious illnesses. This means new vehicle sales will inevitably plunge once again in July and we will probably see a decline in the third quarter, with the market likely to struggle to achieve the association’s forecast of a 30% rise to 750,000 units this year.


Thailand’s new vehicle market expanded by over 36% to 119,890 units in the second quarter of 2021 from 88,122 units in the same period of last year, according to wholesale data compiled by the Federation of Thai Industries. The data exclude some significant brands, including Chinese and European commercial vehicle manufacturers and also passenger vehicles sold by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Sales in the second quarter rebounded from very weak year-earlier volumes, when much of the country’s economy was under lockdown to slow the initial spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recovery from last year’s 6.1% decline has been slow, with GDP shrinking by a further 2.6% in the first quarter of 2021 – reflecting sluggish domestic consumption and a sharp decline in exports.

The economy is expected to have rebounded strongly in the second quarter against weak year-earlier levels, underpinned by a sharp rebound in exports, but the domestic recovery remains sluggish and the government is under pressure to provide additional stimulus. The recent surge in coronavirus infections has delayed plans to relaunch the all-important tourism sector, while consumer confidence has weakened significantly in recent months.

The Bank of Thailand has said the outbreak of the Delta and Alpha variants in the last few months could cost the country up to two percentage points in GDP growth this year and recently cut its full-year GDP growth forecast to 1.8%.

Vehicle sales in the first half of the year were up by just 7.2% at 308,983 units from 288,186 units in the same period of last year, reflecting a weak first quarter. The FTI revised down its full-year sales forecast to below 750,000 units, from 792,146 actual sales in 2020, to reflect the impact of the current coronavirus surge on consumer purchasing power.

Vehicle production rose by 39% to 844,601 units in the first half of the year following a rebound in export orders in the second quarter, reflecting strong global pent-up demand, prompting the Federation to raise its full-year output forecast to 1.55m-1.6m million vehicles. It also lifted its full-year vehicle export forecast from 750,000 units to 800,000-850,000 units.


Malaysia’s new vehicle market continued to rebound in the second quarter of 2021, by over 60% to 109,630 units from depressed year-earlier sales of 68,292 units – when strict social and business restrictions to slow the initial spread of the virus had a major impact on sales activity.

The latest registration data released by Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) shows the market’s strong momentum came to an abrupt stop in the final month of the quarter after the government introduced a new Movement Control Order (MCO) at the beginning of June in response to surging cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

The latest lockdown brought most of the country’s economy to a virtual standstill, with vehicle sales plunging by almost 96% to just 1,921 units last month. Dealers in most of the country were allowed to carry out only aftersales activities and the limited number of new vehicle registrations recorded was mainly from sales spilt over from the previous month.

Economic growth in the country is still expected to be strong in the second quarter, after declining by 0.5% year-on-year in the first quarter, mainly due to the extremely weak year-earlier data and helped by strong export growth. Economists expect this latest spike in infections, and the subsequent lockdown, will have significantly slowed the country’s domestic growth momentum – with many downgrading their full-year GDP forecasts to around 4.5%-5.0%

In the first half of 2021 the vehicle market was up by almost 44% to 249,129 units from 173,545 units in the same period of last year, with passenger vehicle sales rising by 42% to 223,838 units while commercial vehicle sales were up by 60% at 25,291 units. The MAA this month said it expects the vehicle market to decline to just over 500,000 units in 2021, compared with its previous forecast of 570,000 units.

Vehicle sales in the ASEAN region by market, H1 2021

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Sources: Industry sources