Malaysia’s automotive market isn’t the only one to have started 2016 in sluggish fashion, as our ASEAN neighbours Thailand and Indonesia, the powerhouses of the region, have seen new vehicle sales slip as well. Data compiled by just-auto shows that car sales in ASEAN’s six largest markets fell by 3.6% to 737,474 units in the first quarter of 2016.

The data covers Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore. According to the report, the Indonesian market saw a year-on-year (y-o-y) decline of 5.3% to 267,230 units in Q1, despite a moderate pick-up in economic activity due mainly to rising public and private investment.

Recent interest rate cuts (three times by the central bank, which should help stimulate domestic consumption) and fresh models (Toyota Sienta was launched at IIMS 2016) are expected to lift sales in the second half of the year.


Up north in Thailand, the decline of domestic sales has been well documented, although healthy exports are propping up manufacturing figures for the many carmakers that have made the Kingdom their regional base.

New car sales were down by 8.3% to 181,318 units in Q1, as heavily indebted Thai consumers held back on big ticket items. Prices of cars have gone up too, as a result of a new excise tax that takes into consideration C02 emissions and E85 biofuel capability, as opposed to solely engine capacity. A fourth consecutive year of decline in sales this year is predicted, with figures forecasted to fall by 5-6% to 750,000 units.

Malaysia is the third largest market in ASEAN with 131,267 units sold in Q1 2016. This figure is 22% lower y-o-y, which is a big drop, but bear in mind that Q1 2015 figures were artificially boosted by consumers buying ahead of GST implementation in April 2015. After a bad hangover in Jan and Feb 2016, March saw sales flickering back to life and almost all major brands saw increase in sales last month – see the chart listing all brands here.

Away from ASEAN’s big three, things were rosier for the carmakers. Sales in the Philippines rose by 21.6% to 76,479 units and in Vietnam, sales went up by almost 37.8% to 56,264 units. Both LHD markets have low vehicle ownership levels (which means plenty of room to grow, Malaysia is very saturated in comparison) and above average economic growth.

The controlled market that is Singapore is an oddball, and a strong cyclical rebound after many years of decline, driven mainly by a sharp fall in registration taxes, saw sales rise by 87.4% in Q1, y-o-y. The 24,916 units sold is just a small drop in the ocean, however.