Local auto market sales could pass 1m

Local auto market sales could pass 1m

Double-digit growth over first 5 months

Thailand's car market is expected to exceed 1 million units sold in 2018 after many Japanese car makers witnessed double-digit growth the first five months.

The previous outlook was for 900,000-920,000 units sold.

The overall car market rose by 18% year-on-year to 401,264 units over the first five months, said the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI). Pickup sales grew by 17.4% year-on-year to 171,744 units, while passenger cars rose by 16% to 153,179 units.

Sport utility vehicle sales surged by 65.9% to 32,311 units sold from January to May, while pickup passenger vehicle sales rose by 7.5% to 25,488 units.

As a result of the healthy auto market, Japan's Mitsubishi plans to increase its market share beyond its current target of 8%. It is monitoring the market this month before changing its target.

Morikazu Chokki, president and chief executive of Mitsubishi Motors (Thailand), said the company forecasts the strong overall market can record double-digit growth for the full year.

He said this optimism is based on expiry of the five-year ownership period for the first-time car buyer scheme of the previous government, which should stimulate more replacement purchases.

The Thai economy is also driving the auto market, in particular the government's accelerated infrastructure projects and the Eastern Economic Corridor Act, which should attract new investment, said Mr Chokki.

"These factors have an effect on the car market. The country's GDP growth this year is expected to be 4.2%, up from 3% in previous estimates," he said.

"The market has been excited since early this year because of many new and refreshed models from distributors, which should keep sentiment bullish over the remainder of this year."

Toshiaki Maekawa, president of Tri Petch Isuzu Sales, the local distributor of Isuzu trucks, said the company has increased its overall market projection to 950,000 cars sold in 2018. But he said the off-season market in the third quarter will pressure sales growth.

"Isuzu is monitoring interest rate trends, capital flows and currency exchange in light of the US-China trade war, all of which are negative for Thailand," he said.

Mr Maekawa said external circumstances caused Isuzu to maintain its Thai market share outlook at 18% in 2018. He said although its pickup sales have done well, Isuzu's large bus and truck sales remained in the red this year.

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