Vehicle sales in Thailand fell by 26.2% year on year in May to 40,539 units, according to data released by Toyota Motor Thailand, marking the 12th consecutive monthly decline. The recession deepened in the first quarter, with GDP contracting by 7.1% compared with a drop of 4.3% in the last quarter of 2008.

The commercial vehicle segment continued to suffer most, with sales declining by 31.1% to 23,178 units - reflecting low confidence, falling exports and lower investment. The passenger vehicle segment fared a bit better, with volumes declining by 18.3% to 17,361 units.

Vutigorn Suriyachantananont, vice-president of Toyota Motor Thailand, put a positive spin on the data by saying that normal deliveries of passenger cars had not taken place in May. He said Camry production had been halted to retool for the revised and hybrid models, which are scheduled to be launched in August. He added that the company "has more than 9,000 back orders for the Vios sub-compact car" - although this reflects more than anything earlier production stoppages.

In the first five months of 2009, Thai vehicle sales fell by 30.7% to 188,026 units, with commercial vehicle sales falling by 39% to 110,716 units and car vehicles by 13.9% to 77,310 units.

Consumer confidence has improved slightly since the end of the first quarter, reflecting lower interest rates and a rebound in the local stock market. Vehicle sales in May were 2% higher than in April. But fuel prices have also increased in the last month, reflecting rising crude oil prices.

Tony Pugliese