New vehicle sales in the Philippines plunged by almost 23% to 28,216 units in March from peak year-earlier sales of 36,561 units, according to member data released jointly by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA).

The data did not include some significant brands in this market, including Hyundai, Chevrolet and Subaru.

Last month's sharp drop follows a more moderate decline of 3% in February as the market continues to adjust to a new tax structure introduced in the Philippines at the beginning of the year, resulting in higher automobile excise taxes.

First quarter sales were down by 8.5% at 86,037 units from 94,026 in the same period last year, reflecting higher deliveries in January as buyers brought purchases forward at the end of last year to avoid higher prices.

Commercial vehicles sales fell by 30% to 17,291 units in March from 24,708 units a year earlier and by 8% to 57,130 units in the first quarter from 62,075 units previously.

Passenger car sales fell by 7.8% to 10,925 units in March from 11,853 units a year earlier and by 9.5% to 28,907 units in the first quarter from 31,951 units.

CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez said he was confident the market would return to growth in the coming months, despite a number of automakers forecasting flat or lower sales in 2018.

Toyota saw its sales fall 15.4% in the first quarter and Ford's sales were 17% lower, while Mitsubishi posted a volume gain of over 18%.

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