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Thailand’s auto industry starts to recover

By Yamin Vong
The Thai automotive industry has begun to recover from last year’s contraction and exports should return to 1.2 million to as much as 1.4 million units this year.

“Added up to the domestic sales which we expect to reach 800,000, I’m confident that total car production in Thailand will reach 2.1 million to 2.2 million units this year,” said Dr Prachin Eumlumnow, the president of the 37th Bangkok International Motor Show.

The 10-day show which starts tomorrow is themed “No Boundaries Mobility”.
The highlight of the show is the Toyota C-HR compact cross-over which made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

The important elements of this concept car is that it uses a new platform – the Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA.
This new platform is for a plug-in hybrid powertrain using a new petrol engine that boosts thermal efficiency up to 40 per cent from the 25 per cent thermal efficiency of current spark ignition engines.

The real show stealer though is the new E-Class that has just made its debut in Europe.

This new E-Class, the W213, looks like a larger C-Class or a shrunken S-Class, depending on your point of view. It replaces the E300 BlueTec hybrid that is now sold in Malaysia. The Mercedes-Benz booth is one of the most posh in the BIMS.

For the show, GM pimped up its Colorado pick-up truck and its Trailblazer SUV. Called the Colorado Extreme and the Trailblazer Premium, both share the same platform.

Some people we met at the show
We met Marc Deveraux, GM’s International Vice President of Sales and Marketing and asked for his insights on Chevrolet in the Asean region.
When I introduced myself as a journalist writing for the Malaysian media, it hit his button. Malaysia is an important market for GM yet it’s at the bottom of their list.

GM’s market in Asean by unit sales, 2015:
Thailand 19,000 unit sales a year,
Philippines 8,000
Vietnam 7,000
Indonesia 5,000

“We’ll have to work harder with our partners Naza Quest. We must help them more and they must help us more,” said Deveraux

“We realise that we’re not going to make much headway unless we adjust our business model to the reality that there are too many non-tariff barriers, that there is no real free trade in the Asean automotive industry.

“If Asean wants to be one bloc of 600 million people, that will make it the sixth largest automotive market in the world. What it is now are small pockets of production in the various member countries of Asean.

“Unless you make the cars in Malaysia, you can’t compete. Therefore, we are considering all possibilities, including local assembly. We must work harder with our Malaysian partner, Naza Quest and they too with us,” he said.

GM has a diesel engine manufacturing plant in Rayong that makes the 2.5 litre and 2.8 litre Duramax engines installed in the Colorado and Trailblazer. The engines are also exported worldwide.

Exhibitors at BIMS compete to give the best packages to attract customers. For instance, customers who trade in their vehicles, all brands and models, for a new Chevy will get an additional THB50,000 (RM5,700) discount and cash discount of up to THB20,000 (RM2,300) with a minimum 0.49 per cent interest rate and free comprehensive insurance.

Those who book Chevy vehicles at the motor show or at Chevrolet dealers nationwide until the show ends on April 3 will get an additional cash discount of THB10,000 and Chevrolet premium luggage worth THB3,000, with delivery by April 30.

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About Tony Yew

Tony Yew has been a motoring contributor to CBT since 2009 and took up a full time position in Oct 2015, as Web editor, Head of Digital Media. His role is to expand the reach of cbt.com.my and hope that the readers of CBT will continue to support this media.

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