Toyota raises overall Thai auto sales estimate to 12 percent from 3 percent

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp on Wednesday forecast overall vehicle sales in Thailand to rise 12 percent this year from last, greater than the 3 percent it estimated in January, saying the auto market has benefited from favorable economic conditions.

The Japanese automaker, which commands about one-third of the Thai vehicle market, also raised its local sales growth forecast to 31 percent from 25 percent.

“New models and various marketing activities introduced by carmakers have also played a big role in stimulating the Thai auto market,” Toyota Motor Thailand President Michinobu Sugata said a news conference.

Thailand’s government expects rising investment, exports and tourism to push economic growth beyond that of 2017, which was the quickest rate in five years.

The Southeast Asian country is a regional production and export hub for the world’s biggest automakers, and the auto sector accounts for about 12 percent of gross domestic product.

In January-June, overall vehicles sales rose 19 percent from the same period a year earlier, with those of Toyota jumping 26 percent, Sugata said.

“Market growth for the first half was beyond our expectation,” he said. “In light of the upward trend in the auto market, we foresee a better market outlook.”

Toyota now expects to sell 315,000 vehicles in Thailand this year, out of an overall 980,000. It maintained its export target of 300,000 vehicles, matching last year.

Sugata also said import tariffs under consideration in the United States for vehicles and parts should have limited impact on Thai auto exports as under 10 percent go to that country.

“But if other countries also introduce protectionist measures, there will definitely be an impact,” Sugata said.

In Southeast Asia, Toyota aims to sell 3.5 million vehicles this year, having sold 1.71 million in January-June. In 2017, it sold 3.36 million vehicles across the region, Sugata said.

Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Christopher Cushing