THE Thai automobile industry had a fruitful year in 2017, with sales rebounding as a large number of new models helped raise demand in every segment.
While one-tonne pickup trucks and eco cars make up the majority of the auto market (as the country is also the global production base for these vehicles), a new trend is building up in terms of digitisation and electric vehicle (EV) technology.
Last year, the government has made clear its intention to promote the production and use of EVs in Thailand, which could, in the future, turn the country into a production base for such vehicles.
Nissan will be the first major auto maker to launch an EV model in Thailand later this year. The second-generation Nissan LEAF will be imported from Japan and hit the local showrooms with price tags of over Bt1 million. Aimed at modern families needing a second vehicle for city driving, the LEAF is expected to start a new trend among city dwellers.
While operating range is the common weakness of EVs, Nissan claims the LEAF has a range of 400 kilometres (Japanese JC08 cycle), up 40 per cent from the first-generation model, which won over 280,000 customers worldwide.
The Japanese version of the new LEAF also comes with autonomous highway driving as well as parking – it is still unconfirmed whether the Thai-bound models will be equipped with these functions.
Infotainment systems offered with automobiles are also being upgraded across the market, and now come with Bluetooth and facilities for hands-free phone calls as well as voice control technology.
While these functions are usually offered in luxury cars, more affordable brands in the lower market segments have been offering them in their products to increase attractiveness.
The new Mazda CX-5, for example, features the latest MZD Connect infotainment system that allows users to connect to the Internet and social media. Apart from a Bluetooth connection, there’s also a built-in navigation system plus BOSE sound system.
Meanwhile, the MG ZS goes a few steps further with the i-SMART system. It has the world’s first Thai-language voice control system that does all sorts of things, ranging from opening/closing the panoramic sunroof, adjusting the climate control, infotainment and navigation systems. Download the app and the owner can also locate the vehicle position as well as start the engine and turn the climate control system to pre-cool the cabin prior to entry.
With more people using the Internet on a daily basis, automobile companies are also increasing their presence in the online world, with more advertisements and activities being provided on social media.
Thee Permpongpanth, senior marketing director of Mazda Sales (Thailand) Co Ltd, said that attitudes on consumerism and communication have been changing, with digital communication growing more important. However, he said traditional media like television and print media is still crucial in reaching the majority of target customers.
“Today customers are able to quickly gain more offline and online information through the integration of media consumption,” he said. “We have increased channels in our digital platforms such as www.mazda.co.th and Mazda Thailand Official Facebook, YouTube, Line and Instagram accounts. These are the hubs of Mazda information for customers and anyone interested in the Mazda brand. These channels provide all kinds of information such as vehicle details, technology, usage, dealer networks, aftersales and maintenance, parts and labour cost, including news and activities from Mazda.”