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Economy

New-auto sales up 3% for August in key Southeast Asian markets

Philippine sales jump ahead of tax hike, while Thais buy more pickup trucks

BANGKOK -- Sales of new automobiles in six major Southeast Asian markets rose 3% on the year to 285,375 units this August, the highest level in five months, driven by solid growth in the Philippines and Thailand.

The Philippines scored the biggest advance. Sales in the region's fourth-largest market surged 18% to 39,404 units amid a rush to buy before excise taxes go up next year.

Sales climbed 7% in the second-largest market of Thailand, helped by a 10% jump in sales of 1-ton pickup trucks. If the current pace is maintained, the full-year tally will exceed 800,000 for the first time in three years.

Rising sales in Southeast Asia are welcome news for Japanese automakers, which hold an 80% market share. Dependence on the region is increasing as the world's top two markets of China and the U.S. show signs of slowing.

But the Vietnamese market is still struggling. Sales there fell a fifth straight month in August, by 6% to 22,099 units. Buyers are holding off on purchases until next year, when prices are set go down with the scrapping of import duties in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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