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4 minute read | April 2014
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Kuala Lumpur – Apr. 16, 2014 -Although car ownership in the majority of Southeast Asian markets is among the lowest levels globally, consumers throughout the region are displaying the strongest intention to purchase a new car and will drive much of the world’s automotive demand in the next few years, according to a report released today by Nielsen, a global information and measurement company.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Automotive Demand found car ownership was relatively low across much of Southeast Asia; 47 percent of Filipino households do not own a car (fifth lowest globally) and 46 percent of Indonesian households have no car (sixth lowest globally). Malaysia was the only Southeast Asia market to buck the trend, posting the third highest level of car ownership globally (93%) and the highest incidence of multiple car ownership globally (54% of households have more than one car).

Despite the overall low ownership level across the region, purchase intent is high with Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, all ranking in the top 10 countries globally for intention to acquire a car within the next two years. Around four in five Indonesian and Thai consumers (81% and 79% respectively) intend to acquire a car within the next two years, as do three quarters of Filipinos (76%) and seven out of 10 Malaysians (71%), compared to just 65 percent globally.

“Historically automotive demand in Southeast Asia has been relatively low and for many households owning a car has been financially out of reach,” said Chang Park, Managing Director of Nielsen’s Automotive Industry Group in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific. “We have seen those tables turn in a big way in recent years, however, largely due to rising income levels across the region as more and more households join the middle class and attain the financial means to make their first car purchase.”


Among current car owners in Southeast Asia, intention to upgrade is also high, particularly in Indonesia (highest level of intention to upgrade globally), and the Philippines (seventh highest level of intention to upgrade globally).

More than nine in 10 Indonesian car owners (94%) intend to upgrade their vehicle when they are financially able, as do 89% of Filipino car owners, 88% of Malaysian car owners, and 86% of Thai car owners, compared to a global average of 78 percent. Singapore was the only market of the five Southeast Asia countries surveyed which fell below the global average – 74 percent of Singaporean car owners intend to upgrade their car when they are financially able.


Three in 10 Malaysian consumers spent more than an hour driving to work while about a quarter of those surveyed would spent more than an hour taking the train to work (23%). Only 18 percent and 13 percent respectively of Malaysian consumers took over an hour walking and taking a bus ride to work.

Reflective of their relatively long commute times, many Southeast Asian car owners believe the primary role of the car they drive is to get them where they need to go. Singaporeans were most pragmatic about their vehicles (88% view their car as a tool to get them where they are going), followed by Filipinos (87%), Indonesians and Malaysians (85%) and Thais (82%).


Many Southeast Asian car owners also believe their car is an important symbol of success they have achieved in life. Four Southeast Asia market ranked in the top 10 countries globally when it came to viewing their car as a status symbol. Car owners in Thailand were more inclined than any other nation globally to view their car as a status symbol (79%) as were Filipino car owners (72%) followed by car owners in, Indonesia (67%), Malaysia (62%) and Singapore (54%). This compared to 52 percent of consumers globally.

“Southeast Asian consumers, and particularly the emerging middle class consumers are particularly aspirational,” notes Park. “As their income levels rise, these consumers are not only in a better position to buy the things they want and need, they are also looking to make purchases which demonstrate their rising social status. For many of these consumers, car ownership is the ultimate symbol of how far they have come and the success they have achieved.”


The Nielsen Global Survey about Automotive Demand was conducted between August 14 and September 6, 2013, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. In Malaysia, the sample size is 504. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60-percent Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.


Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA, and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit