Auto output back in top gear 5 months on

business April 20, 2012 00:00

By NALIN VIBOONCHART
THE NATION

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Five months after the disruption from severe floods that hit Thailand in October, automotive production is gaining strength, hitting a record monthly output of 190,936 units in March.



 “The production output is likely to hit a new record in the second half of this year once Honda’s production can return to normal. We’re confident that total auto production this year will reach 2.1 million units,” said Surapong Paisittanapong, spokesman of the Automotive Industry Club under the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Thailand’s worst flooding in 50 years affected the automotive and electronics industry the most as the inundated provinces – Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani – are home to most of the manufacturing in these two industries.

Honda is the only carmaker whose two plants were inundated for a few months, but the other companies could not keep to their production schedules because of the disruption in the supply chain. Total auto production last year, therefore, was below the target of 1.8 million units. The best it could manage was 1.45 million units.

Surapong said auto production last month was about 190,000 units, an 11-per-cent increase year on year and a 13.5-per-cent increase over February. This is the best performance by the Thai automotive industry since its inception in 1961.

The production of pickup trucks and more-than-10-tonne trucks were the biggest contributors to the month’s total auto output in March, while passenger-car production was still lower than in the same period of last year. The production of double-cab pickups grew by 34.89 per cent from March last year to 71,000 units, and that of pickup-based passenger vehicles rose by 54 per cent to 15,600 units.

The production of passenger cars in March declined by 17.57 per cent from March last year to 53,600 units.

Total auto output during the first quarter of this year was nearly 500,000 units, up 6.52 per cent from the same period of last year.

Surapong said the forecast for auto production from April to June was 477,000 units, declining by 4.36 per cent when compared with the first quarter, but increasing by 40 per cent from the same period last year. Auto production at that time in 2011 was still suffering from the impact of the tsunami devastation in Japan.

FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsutipol said the Thai Industries Sentiment Index in March had improved for the fourth consecutive month to 102.1 from 100.9 in February. The index in that month was also higher than 100 for the second consecutive month.

He said the industries had accelerated production to prepare for the high demand during the Songkran festival, particularly food, consumer products, sugar and automotive products. This index is an indication that Thai industries are recovering continuously, he said.