Total 2003 vehicle sales in the Philippines rose 8% to 90,535 units, compared with prior-year’s 84,041, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines and the Truck Manufacturers Assn. report.

Vehicles such as the RAV4 have helped Toyota dominate the Philippine market.

Nevertheless, the full-year figure felt short of expected sales of 91,000 vehicles.

CAMPI and TMA forecast car sales will grow 10% this year, although first-quarter sales are expected to be slow, based on historical trends. Auto makers expect market demand to stabilize within the first quarter following the full implementation of the region’s new excise tax law.

Demand for commercial vehicles remained strong in 2003, accounting for 74% of total sales, while passenger cars accounted for 26%. CAMPI and TMA say 2003 passenger car sales totaled 23,379 units, posting a 9.8% growth over prior-year’s 21,298.

Passenger car sales in December, alone, jumped 24.8% to 3,183 units, compared with 2,550 cars sold in December 2002. Analysts credit the increase on growing demand for small cars, aggressive sales promotions and fleet deliveries. Commercial-vehicle sales in December rose 7%, or 67,156 units compared with like-2002’s 62,743.

Sales of Asian utility vehicles in 2003 reached 39,318 units, compared with 37,448 in 2002. Light-commercial vehicle sales totaled 24,606 units compared with prior-year’s 22,027. The LCV segment includes SUVs, vans and certain trucks.

Light-truck sales accounted for 2,585 sales, while only 647 heavy trucks and buses were sold.

Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. dominated the market in 2003, accounting for more than 30% of total sales.