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Business

Vietnam, Philippine car sales up in September; Indonesia flat

Toyota Calya sold in Indonesia

BANGKOK -- September auto sales were flat in Indonesia, while those in the Philippines and Vietnam were brisk, industry figures show.

Total unit sales for six key Southeast Asian markets -- including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore -- rose 4% from a year ago to 274,585 vehicles. From January to September, vehicles sales grew 4% to 2,331,537, suggesting growth for the full year, although weak consumer sentiment in Thailand is a worry.

Indonesia's car sales totaled September 93,156, up 0.1% from the same month a year ago, eking out a sixth month of growth. The only bright spot in that market were brisk sales of small multipurpose vehicles: Toyota Motor's Calya and the Sigra, built by Toyota unit Daihatsu Motor.

The two models, rolled out in August, qualify for government subsidies aimed at promoting fuel-efficient small cars. The overall market has slumped in Indonesia, even as demand for cheaper cars grows, indicating a poor climate.

In Thailand, the region's second-largest market, sales continued to recover in September. But consumers may hold off on big purchases following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, casting a shadow over spending. September sales totaled 63,641 vehicles in Thailand during the month, up 3% on the year and the second straight month of growth.

Driving the increase were Honda Motor's medium-size Civic sedan and Mitsubishi Motors' 1-ton pickup truck, the Triton. That model's sales were helped by a campaign to move the current Triton off dealer lots ahead of an October upgrade.

A sales representative at a Toyota dealership in Bangkok said the number of potential buyers is rebounding from an initial drop after the king's death, but orders remain about 10% below normal seasonal levels. An employee at a Honda dealership said many customers have asked to put off delivery of their orders until next year, indicating sales may be poor for a while.

September auto sales dropped only in Malaysia, where consumer sentiment remained poor amid an economic slowdown. The country's auto sales slipped 6% to 48,191 vehicles, the ninth straight of month declines. The slump continued despite Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua (Perodua), the top domestic automaker, and second-ranking Proton Holdings both introducing new models in September.

Bright spots

Meanwhile, demand is expected to remain solid in the Philippines and Vietnam, where car ownership is rising fast. Auto sales rose 16% to 35,102 vehicles in the Philippines in September, rising for the 49th consecutive month. The country's full-year sales are increasingly expected to reach 400,000.

The Philippine market may grow further, as the government has introduced a policy to promote local auto production, and Toyota and Mitsubishi move ahead with plans to step up output in the country.

Sales also rose briskly in Vietnam to 26,551 vehicles in September, up 24% from a year ago and the seventh month of year-on-year growth. Consumer sentiment is improving as the economy grows. Commercial vehicles, such as buses and trucks, are also selling well thanks to a boost from infrastructure building.

Singapore, where luxury cars are a key market driver, saw sales jump 51% in September to 7,944 vehicles.

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