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How did you enjoy our recent 2016 Bangkok Motor Show coverage? There were plenty of new metal that will be coming to Malaysia in the very near future, and we showed you in detail cars such as the all-new Honda Civic, W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Honda Accord facelift, new Toyota Fortuner and the Subaru Forester facelift, among other interesting metal. Plenty of girls, too.

It seemed like business as usual on the show floor, but Bangkok Post reports that car bookings at the 14-day show fell for the fourth straight year. The 32,571 units recorded was down 12% from last year, missing the organiser’s target of 40,000 bookings. Held twice a year under different companies (Thai Motor Expo is the year-end event), motor shows in Bangkok also double up as a mega sales fair for car brands.

We saw their army of SAs on the first public day and are not surprised that Honda, armed with the new Civic, garnered the most bookings from the show (4,308). It was followed by Toyota (4,013), Nissan (3,586), Mazda (3,557) and Mitsubishi (3,549). The premium brand two-horse race saw Mercedes-Benz edge BMW (1,700 vs 1,107), which is also unsurprising in Thailand, where the three-pointed star has been traditionally strong.

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Jaturont Komolmis, COO of show organiser Grand Prix International, said the Thai market has been feeling the pinch from the country’s sluggish economy.

More significantly, consumers accelerated car buying in the second half of last year to avoid a new excise tax that came into effect in January 2016. The new tax, based on CO2 emissions, E85-gasohol compatibility and fuel efficiency instead of purely engine capacity in the old system, has seen prices rise for most cars.

“Although vehicle prices have only been raised by 5% in light of the excise tax, with some car makers capping their prices to avoid the impact on their sales in the first quarter, market sentiment has yet to improve,” Jaturont said, adding that the car market is unlikely to recover during the first half of 2016, with a tightening on car loans by the banks set to further dampen sales.

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Surapong Paisitpatanapong, spokesman for the automotive industry club under the Federation of Thai Industries, said the local market is still suffering from the effects of the new excise tax, which pushed sales figures in December 2015 to over 100,000 units for the first time in two years.

After the party came the hangover. In January and February this year, Thai sales stood at 51,715 and 57,090 units respectively. The FTI’s Surapong predicted domestic sales to drop by 22.6% to 153,000 units in the first quarter of 2016. This means that exports are crucial to maintain production levels.

The same phenomenon happened in Malaysia’s car industry, although for different reasons. Despite last year being a challenging one for the economy, the total industry volume (TIV) of 666,674 units was 0.03% higher than 2014’s 666,487 units, making 2015’s TIV the highest ever in Malaysian history.

The matching of 2014 figures was due to a late surge. Sales volume in December 2015 was 23.7% or 13,309 units higher than the previous month (November 2015), and was by far the highest monthly total in 2015.

Malaysians bought cars ahead of an almost across-the-board car price increase due to the forex effect. Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Kia, Peugeot, Citroen, Audi, Nissan and even Proton have increased prices, citing the same reason. We’re seeing the effects of the forward buying now – sales in January and February were weak and Q1 figures are set for a sharp year-on-year decline.