Thai new-vehicle sales eased just 0.1% last year to 625,270 units, from 631,251 in like-2007, reports Toyota Motor Thailand Co. Ltd., which compiles statistics for the industry.

The result was well short of the 650,000 deliveries earlier forecast by the Federation of Thai Industries’ automotive industry club.

A 17.6% decline in 1-ton pickup-truck sales to 314,060 units nearly was offset by a 33.2% jump in passenger-car deliveries to 226,805.

Despite a 7.0% drop in new-vehicle sales from year-ago, Toyota led the Thai market with 262,209 deliveries, including a 15.5% gain in new-car sales to 106,853. The auto maker’s 1-ton pickup truck sales slumped 18.4% to 141,249 units from like-2007.

Isuzu Motors Co. (Thailand) Ltd. sold 133,390 new vehicles in 2008, an 11.7% decline from 151,033 prior-year.

Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co. Ltd.’s new-generation Jazz/Fit and City models helped drive the auto maker to 12 straight months of improved sales, compared with like-2007. Its new-vehicle deliveries surged 56.9% to 91,807 units from year-ago’s 58,525.

Among U.S. auto makers, Chevrolet Sales (Thailand) Ltd. deliveries slipped 2.9% to 22,204 units, from 22,866 in 2007, while Ford Sales and Service (Thailand) Ltd. sold 9,093 units, down 39.8% from 15,126.

December new-vehicle sales fell 8.3% to 59,002 units, from 64,346 in like-2007. It was the seventh straight month sales declined compared with prior-year, but the result was a 28.0% gain from November deliveries of 46,068 units.

Toyota was December’s sales leader, despite a 14.5% slump in deliveries to 25,963 units from year-ago’s 30,383. The auto maker captured 47.2% of the market.

Isuzu was a distant second with sales of 11,390 units, down 34.0% from 17,268 in like-2007. Honda deliveries skyrocketed 590.0% to 10,807 from 1,564 prior-year.

The 1-ton pickup segment plunged 33.8% in December to 31,210 units, from 47,193 in like-2007. Toyota led the segment with 14,809 units, followed by Isuzu with 10,839.

New-car sales jumped 98.2% to 23,825 units in December, from year-ago’s 12,019. Toyota narrowly led the segment with 10,113 deliveries vs. Honda’s 10,037.

FTI spokesman Suraphong Paisitpattananphong says 2009 new-vehicle sales could plunge nearly 20% in the face of rising unemployment and the global economic slowdown.

“This year, we expect domestic sales to drop significantly on the possibility of larger job losses, while the country’s exports are likely to be hurt by the world’s economic recession,” he tells the Bangkok Post.

“Overseas shipments showed signs of a significant drop since October, starting with the Australian market, which is the major destination for passenger cars exported from Thailand.”

Orders from the Asian region and Central and Latin America began falling in November, along with those from Europe, one of the top markets for Thai-made pickups.

Suraphong tells the newspaper the industry projects 1.1 million vehicles will be produced in Thailand this year, down 20% from 1.4 million in 2008.

The Nation reports Toyota Thailand President Mitsuhiro Sonoda as saying the auto maker expects the overall Thai market to fall 16.8% this year to 520,000 units.