The Nation



Protests hit Thai Motor Expo sales, attendance

The ongoing political protests have hit the Thailand International Motor Expo, with organisers expecting a 15-per-cent drop in both attendance and sales.

Kwanchai Paphatphong, chairman of the organising committee of the event, said a total of just 30,074 orders had been placed through Sunday, but he expected a rebound during the last two days. The show, which is held at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, ends today.

Last year more than 84,000 orders were placed, but most resulted from the government's populist First Car-Buyer scheme. Kwanchai said on the opening day of the show that sales could reach 50,000 units this year, but later admitted that was too optimistic considering the political situation.

"Judging from the number of orders placed until [Sunday], we think that by the end of the show about 40,000-plus orders would be placed," he said, adding that a large number of sales usually take place during the later stages when car companies seal the final deal with customers.

"Last year on the final day alone, as many as 14,000 orders were placed," he said.

As of Sunday, Toyota led the sales ranking with 6,707 orders, followed by Honda with 4,685 and Isuzu with 3,177.

The target of 1.6 million visitors is also being lowered, and Kwanchai now expects an attendance of 1.35 to 1.4 million.

"The forecast we announced prior to the show was rather optimistic and we did not consider the effects of the political protests," he said.

Nevertheless, he was in no way unhappy with this year's figures.

"Car buyers have been anticipating the event, which is a major car-buying festival, and most have not decided to postpone purchases due to the political situation," he said.

According to Kwanchai, Thai auto buyers rarely refuse the chance to purchase a new car.

"We separate the sadness of ongoing events and the happiness of owning a new car. The same situation happened during the great flood a couple of years ago. Many Japanese auto companies advised us to cancel the show for fear consumers would hold back on spending. But they did not and went ahead with purchases," he said.

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