New vehicle sales in Thailand continued to rise in March 2022, by over 16% to 87,245 units from 74,925 a year earlier, according to the latest wholesale data released by the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Economic activity in the country has picked up in recent months following a gradual easing of covid restrictions and economic stimulus measures by the government. Bank of Thailand has kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a historic low of 0.5% to help underpin domestic consumption.

First quarter sales were up also by 12% at 231,189 vehicles compared with 189,093 in the same period of last year, driven by strong demand for pickup trucks. The data exclude some significant brands, particularly commercial vehicles by Chinese and European manufacturers and also BMW and Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles.

Vehicle exports fell by over 10% year-on-year to 93,840 vehicles last month and were down by almost 6% at 243,124 units in the first quarter, which the FTI blamed in part on the continued shortage of semiconductors for some car models.

In view of the strong first-quarter market performance, the FTI suggested full-year domestic sales could reach 900,000 units this year – up from its earlier forecast of between 800,000-850,000 units, after sales fell by 4% to 759,119 units in 2021.