Thailand retakes regional lead in light vehicle sales

The Detroit of Southeast Asia is the king of regional light vehicles sales once again. Thailand overtook Indonesia in sales for the first time in five years during the first quarter of 2019 despite having a much smaller market to work with, and the future looks promising, according to an automotive consultancy firm.

For decades, Thailand had the largest car and truck market in Southeast Asia and is still the largest auto manufacturer in the region. However, as Indonesia has become more prosperous, its market has grown larger than the Thai market. Indonesia has a population approaching 270 million people, while Thailand’s population is just over 70 million.

During the first quarter of 2019, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) region posted a 2 percent year-on-year increase in light vehicle sales for a total of 817,099 units. Thailand’s sales rose by 11.6 percent for 258,568 light vehicles sold, according to LMC Automotive, a market research company.

Indonesia, meanwhile, suffered a 13 percent drop in sales. The research firm attributed that decline to the country’s elections, saying that many consumers were taking a wait-and-see approach to large purchases.

Thailand is also experiencing some cautious consumer sentiment because of its recent elections and concerns over trans-Pacific trade tensions that are expected to drive down export and economic growth this year.

Nonetheless, LMC said that low-interest rates should help the Kingdom’s domestic light vehicle sales, and it revised its forecast upward for that segment to over 1 million units this year from its previous prediction of 974,000 units.

“Vehicle demand is likely to pull ahead in 2019,” LMC said. “LMC’s optimistic scenario sees Thai light vehicle sales hitting a high of 1.1 million units, overtaking the Indonesian market.”