The Thai vehicle market continued to weaken in May, with sales volumes dropping 14.31% year-on-year to 51,364 units, according to data released by vehicle distributor Tri Petch Isuzu.

Toyota – with the most diversified product range on the market – continued to lead with 23,112 sales to claim a market share of around 45%.

Isuzu, with its core strength in the pickup truck sector, was the second-best selling brand with a market share of just under 20%, followed by Honda Motor with close to 13%. The ongoing weakness comes despite a significant number of new model launches during the two-week Bangkok International Motor Show at the end of March/early April – including the best-selling Toyota Vios.

The Thai domestic economy remains sluggish as the ongoing political uncertainty continued to affect consumer spending and corporate investment. Calls are increasing for the military government to stick with its announced plans to hold democratic general elections by the end of the year, following the coup d’etat last September. The junta has tentatively scheduled elections for November, pending the successful outcome of its constitutional reform programme scheduled for August.

The economy grew by 4.3% year-on-year in the first quarter and 1.2% quarter-on-quarter, with exports offsetting weak domestic spending. Last month, the finance ministry lowered its GDP growth forecast for this year to 3.8-4.35%, from 4-4.5% earlier.

Separately, the Thai ministry of finance announced that it would cut excise duties from 30% to 17% on small cars costing Bt 500,000 or less ($US15,300) which meet its eco-car standards. The cuts would be made in 2009, to give carmakers the opportunity to localise production of the cars.

It is understood that the minimum requirements for the cars will be fuel consumption of no more than 20 km per litre and engine size no larger than 1.3 litres for petrol cars and 1.4 for diesels. The government hopes to establish the basis of a strong export-oriented industry similar to the pickup industry.

Tony Pugliese