FTCR’s first quarter survey of the Asean auto market indicates healthy demand for the rest of the year across the region’s largest five economies. Our Auto Purchase Index, which measures the six-month outlook for auto sales, ticked upwards in Indonesia and Thailand and showed small declines for Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

  • In Indonesia, the Auto Purchase Index edged up from 26.4 in the previous quarter to 26.6. Auto buying sentiment has held steady for three quarters and sales have increased 6 per cent year on year in the first quarter.
  • The index dropped in Malaysia, from 24.9 to 21.8. Although sales increased in the first quarter by 7.3 per cent year-on-year Malaysians remain the most pessimistic about their country’s economy, according to our Economic Sentiment Index.
  • In the Philippines, the index fell slightly from 29.5 to 27.2. This suggests that booming demand — sales grew by 23 per cent year on year in the first quarter and 24.6 per cent in 2016 — will decelerate this year.
  • Thailand’s index rose from 26.1 in the previous quarter to 27.7, with sales in the first quarter rising by 15.9 per cent year on year. The quarter’s performance illustrates how the country’s auto market has been returning to more normal sales levels after the distorting effects of a tax rebate that was implemented as far back as 2011.
  • In Vietnam, the index declined to 14.6 in the first quarter from 15.5 in the fourth, as consumers plan to delay purchases until 2018 when the Asean Free Trade Agreement will eliminate tariffs on autos imported from Thailand. As a result, sales growth has fallen to single digits this year after soaring by 29.4 per cent in 2016 and 56.7 per cent in 2015. We expect the index for Vietnam to swing upwards later this year ahead of a stronger performance next year.

The FTCR Motorcycle Purchase Index fell in four of the five countries with only Malaysia posting a slight increase. Region-wide, we expect sales to contract this year, primarily due to the sluggish market in Indonesia, which accounted for half of all sales in the Asean 5 at the end of 2016. Compared with the auto market, which continues to see many first-time buyers as the Asean consumer class expands, the motorcycle market is relatively saturated.

The FTCR Asean Auto Purchase survey is based on interviews with 5,000 consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

FT Confidential Research is an independent research service from the Financial Times, providing in-depth analysis of and statistical insight into China and Southeast Asia. Our team of researchers in these key markets combine findings from our proprietary surveys with on-the-ground research to provide predictive analysis for investors.