The Thai new-vehicle market recorded its second-best April ever, as sales jumped 9.7% to 54,479 units, up from 49,658 units a year earlier.

Toyota Motor Thailand Co. Ltd., which compiles data for the industry, says the result fell just short of the April record of 55,920 units in 2005 and left the year-to-date total up 14.5% at 215,265.

Toyota and rival Isuzu Motors Co. (Thailand) Ltd. continued their market domination, with Toyota delivering 22,681 units during the month and Isuzu 12,731 vehicles.

Chevrolet Thailand sales rose 32.8% in the first four months to 8,918 units, helped by the debut of the Colorado CNG, Thailand’s first natural-gas, dual-fuel pickup. Chevrolet’s car sales totaled 3,380, including 1,427 units of its CNG-powered Optra.

Toyota sold 7,394 cars in April, followed by Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co. Ltd. on 4,284 units.

New-car sales were up 32.4% in the first four months of the year to 67,618 units, while deliveries of the important 1-ton pickup segment rose just 6.4% to 127,490.

Toyota Thailand Vice President Vutigorn Suriyachantananont says new-car sales growth is being driven by the popularity of E20-compatible vehicles.

While Toyota expects growth in the Thai auto market will slow this month because of rising fuel prices, soaring inflation and shrinking consumer-buying power, Vutigorn says the move to E20 (a mixture of 20% ethanol and 80% gasoline) will keep car sales bubbling.

Thailand Automotive Institute President Vallop Tiasiri predicts sales of E20-fueled passenger cars will double the original forecast of 100,000 units this year.

More than 63,000 small and midsize sedans were sold in the first four months, and almost all were E20 models.

Vallop says E20 vehicle sales now are expected to exceed 200,000 units after record-high fuel prices saw every auto maker introduce an E20 model.

Helping fuel demand is the tax structure. E20 vehicles are taxed at a 25% excise rate, while other passenger cars attract a 30% rate.

Overall, Toyota leads the Thai market after four months with total vehicle sales up 15.6% to 89,693 units, ahead of Isuzu on 48,719 and Honda with 27,641.

Toyota raised its sales in the commercial-vehicle segment by 9.9% to 56,767 units after four months. Isuzu ranks second in the sector, with deliveries up 6.5% to 48,719, followed by Siam Nissan Automobile Co. Ltd., down 2.8% to 11,042.

Within this segment, Toyota held off Isuzu to retain leadership in the important 1-ton market that it took from Isuzu for the first time in 2005.

Toyota’s sales rose 10.6% to 51,524 units, while Isuzu deliveries were up 8.1% to 45,940.