A TOTAL of 879,748 vehicles were sold in Thailand last year, and Honda and Toyota are once again embroiled in a dispute over sales figures, as each company claims the title of the best-selling passenger car brand for 2017.
On Monday night, Honda Automobile Thailand Co Ltd announced in an e-mail to Thai media that Honda has maintained the Thai No 1 position in passenger car market for the third consecutive year, with sales of 127,768 units.
However, at Toyota Motor Thailand Co Ltd's (TMT) annual press conference yesterday, TMT president Michinobu Sugata said Toyota was the |passenger car champion in |2017 with sales of 86,606 |units.
The difference between the two figures lies in the inclusion of SUVs such as the CR-V, HR-V and BR-V in Honda's passenger car tally.
Toyota executives have over the years, insisted that those vehicle be included in the commercial vehicle segment as they are not classified as passenger cars but OPVs (off-road |passenger vehicles) and included in the commercial vehicle market.
Meanwhile, in the commercial vehicle market, Isuzu, formerly the top commercial vehicle brand in the country before it was overtaken by Toyota, has regained its crown with sales of 160,550 units in 2017.
Toyota suffered a 10 per cent decline in commercial vehicles sales last year, with sales of the Hilux Revo pickup not moving as swiftly as planned; it finished |in second place with 133,458 units.
Nevertheless, Toyota is still Thailand's largest auto maker and, in total, produced 240,137 vehicles in 2017 (down 2 per cent), followed by Isuzu with 160,550 units (up 12.1 per cent) and Honda with 127,768 units (19 per cent).
Sugata, who is also managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp, said the market growth in 2017 came from the government's economic stimulus packages, which resulted in growth in gross domestic product (GDP) of 3.9 per cent.
He said the Thai auto market had bottomed out last year after four years of decline.
“The outlook for the domestic auto market in 2018 has become more favourable from the 3.9 per cent increase in GDP, as well as investments from the public and private sectors compounding with confidence among consumers that will result in growth for the market and the introduction of new products from each manufacturer,” he said.
“We foresee that the total automobile market in 2018 will reach 900,000 units, a 3.4 per cent rise from 2017,” Sugata said.
He also said Toyota will expand investment towards localising production of hybrid batteries, along with new model introduction.
“Starting with the C-HR to be introduced here soon, we will offer more options of hybrid models in the near future,” he said.
“The C-HR is a funky subcompact SUV/crossover with a 1.8-litre petrol engine or a hybrid powertrain priced from Bt979,000 to Bt1.159 million.
Toyota had received approval from the Board of Investment and concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Excise Department concerning hybrid vehicles.
Toyota is also the largest auto exporter from Thailand. Last year it shipped out 299,385 CBU vehicles worth more than Bt159 billion, along with OEM and parts worth over Bt65 billion.