New vehicle sales in Thailand fell by 13.3% to a multi-year low of 51,715 units in January, from 59,669 in the same month of last year, according to data released by The Federation Of Thai Industries.

A sales decline had been widely expected, however, after the government gave notice last year that excise taxes would increase at the end of 2015 for vehicles with large engines and high emissions. 

Buyers of popular pickup trucks, SUVs and large cars brought their purchases forward into last year in anticipation of the tax hikes. This helped push December sales up 13% year on year.

The decline was perhaps more broad-based than expected, however, with overall passenger car sales declining by 30% to 16,380 units, according to local reports, while SUV sales fell by close to 21% to 3,193 units.

Sales of pickup trucks were down by just over 8% at 24,066 units and pickup based passenger vehicles almost doubled to 4,934 units, as manufacturers continued to fill back orders from last year.

Vehicle production dropped by almost 12% to 147,651 units last month, while exports rose 1.4% to 93,714 units.

The FTI expects the domestic vehicle market to remain negative in the first half of the year, reflecting the country's sluggish domestic economy and the recent tax increases.

Fullyear sales are expected to fall by between 2-6% to 750,000-780,000 units – which would make 2016 the fourth successive year of decline.

Vehicle output is expected to rise 4%-5% to 2million units on the back of higher exports, however.