BANGKOK -- New-car sales in six major Southeast Asian countries grew 3% on the year in October, with double-digit growth in the Philippines and Thailand compensating for declines in Malaysia and Vietnam.
Total unit sales for the region reached 279,717. The climb marked a return to positives after a dip in September. Cumulative vehicle sales since January were up 5% on the year.
Some had feared Thailand would face a lull in October, when it held the funeral for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a year after his death. Automakers muted promotional activities such as TV advertising, but unit sales nevertheless rose 13% on the year.
The Philippines logged the sharpest growth with 18%, breaking 40,000 vehicles for the first time in three months. Customers are rushing to buy in advance of an expected rise in excise taxes next year.
Sales in Indonesia, the region's biggest market, rose 2% after declining the month before.
Southeast Asia's monthly new-car sales have outperformed last year's, except in June and September. Overall unit sales through October, at just over 2.73 million, slightly exceeded 90% of the level reached in that period in the peak year of 2013.
Vietnam, however, has missed last year's levels for seven months running. With car prices set to drop as import duties on cars from Thailand and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members are removed next year, consumers are visibly holding out. October's sales declined 23% on the year, the second-biggest drop in 2017 so far.