BANGKOK -- Thai car sales continued their strong growth in March, data from Toyota Motor Corp. showed on Friday, reflecting a consumption boom uninterrupted by war in Iraq and global economic uncertainty.
Toyota's Thai unit said in a statement domestic vehicle sales totalled 41,683 units in March, up by 29.7 percent from a year ago and by 48 percent from February.
The Thai economy has expanded faster than expected since the second half of 2002, spurred by low interest rates, robust exports and booming domestic consumption.
Government officials projected the economy grew around six percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2003, after about 6.1 percent growth in the previous three months.
They expect the Iraq war and the rapid spread of a deadly flu-like virus to slow growth this year by about half a percentage point to 4.0-4.5 percent. Gross domestic product expanded 5.2 percent in 2002.
Toyota, which compiles data for the whole industry, said sedan and commercial vehicle sales in the first quarter rose 42.4 percent from a year ago to 119,113 units.
The Japanese giant's car sales in Thailand jumped 75.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to 40,906 units, representing a market leading 34.3 percent share.
Domestic vehicle sales surged 37.8 percent in 2002 to a post-1997/98 Asian economic crisis high of 409,362 units.
Auto companies have predicted that total vehicle sales this year will surge to around 500,000 units.