What cars do people buy in South East Asia?

Compared to Eastern Europe, West Asia, and the Middle East, we know a lot more about Southeast Asia. The popular tourist destinations we are familiar with are “Da Nang Bangkok Pattaya, Lion City Long Beach Bali”, while monks, sirens, Filipino maids, “Vietnamese brides” and a lot of heavy history are other symbols of Southeast Asia that we remember. In general, South-East Asia gives the impression of a nice landscape and a poor economy (with the exception of Singapore).

The economic figures for 2019 confirm these impressions once again. Indonesia is the only economy in Southeast Asia with a GDP of more than one trillion dollars, but with a huge population of 268 million (the fourth most populous country in the world), it still has a GDP per capita of less than US$4,000. Thailand and Malaysia have a higher GDP per capita than Indonesia, but the total economic volume is not outstanding enough, and Vietnam, as well as Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, are a bit further behind. Therefore, it is an indisputable fact that the economies of Southeast Asian countries are not developed enough.

The underdeveloped economies have also shaped the shape and preferences of the car market in these countries. To put it more bluntly, the hot-selling models in these countries are generally small and cheap, all based on practicality and still at the stage of solving the problem of availability of means of transportation, so many of the hot-selling models are very unfamiliar to us. Let’s look at the macro sales situation.

Thailand and Indonesia sold over a million

These countries, Indonesia and Thailand two 2019 sales although compared to 2018 respectively fell by 10.8% and 3.3%, but still slightly more than one million units, especially Indonesia, has been eight consecutive years car sales more than one million, so Indonesia and Thailand are the two largest car markets in Southeast Asia. Sub-extra Indonesia and Thailand are also big car exporters with car production higher than sales, with Indonesia producing 1.287 million cars and exporting 332,000 in 2019 and Thailand producing 2.014 million cars and exporting 1.054 million in 2019.

Therefore, Indonesia and Thailand are not only not a small volume sales market, but also an important production base for many car brands, such as the Honda Accord for the Japanese market, the Toyota Helix for the Middle East and Australia, the Chevrolet Colorado, the Mitsubishi L200, the Mazda BT50, the Isuzu D-Max and so on are all produced in Thailand, and there are many production models in Indonesia, not to mention too many ordinary models, the Mercedes E/S/ GLE/GLS, BMW 5/7/X5 and other high-level luxury cars have assembly lines in Indonesia. This shows that the local automotive industry in Indonesia is very well supported, with abundant and skilled workers, and has an advantage in manufacturing costs.

Malaysia saw a slight increase of 0.9% compared to last year to 604,000 units, while Vietnam saw a surge of 12.4% compared to last year, but sales only reached just over 300,000 units due to a small base. Singapore is unique in that it is a city with a policy similar to that of Beijing and Shanghai, as the size of the country is so small (not as large as the two districts of Chaoyang + Haidian in Beijing) that the authorities strictly control the number of cars through levers such as the Certificate of Entitlement and congestion charges. Even without restrictions, the size of the country and its population mean that Singapore is destined to be a small market.

Japanese brands dominate the market

In previous analyses of other car markets, we have always used pie charts to show the competitive landscape of brands in different countries, but this time there is no need to analyze the South East Asian car market because, at a glance, the top 10 in the sales list are almost exclusively Japanese brands.

In Indonesia, the only non-Japanese brand with a market share of more than 0.5% and sales of more than 4,000 units is Wuling, with sales of only 22,000 units, while the nine Japanese brands in the top ten have a total market share of 94.9%, and it is clear that the voices of German, Korean, French and American brands have long since been drowned in the sea of Japanese brands. Among the Japanese brands, Toyota and Daihatsu have a market share of 32.2% and 17.2% respectively, and Daihatsu has long been a subsidiary of Toyota, so Toyota alone has half of the Indonesian market share. Nissan and Mazda Indonesia have a very weak presence, with a market share of 1.2% and 0.5%, far behind Honda, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki.