Launch of exciting vehicles and new orders from buyers under earlier First Car scheme will help market notch up growth
While auto sales in 2016 are expected to decline slightly compared to the previous year due to factors ranging from economic uncertainty to public sentiment, automakers are optimistic about what 2017 might offer.
Major automakers are expecting the Thai market to grow by 3-5 per cent this year, while some are more optimistic, hoping for as much as a 10-per-cent jump in sales.
Introduction of new, exciting models with the latest technologies, starting with the Nissan Note eco-car during the first quarter followed by the Suzuki Swift, will attract the first batch of buyers from the First Car Buyer scheme who are now able to replace their vehicles at the end of the five-year contract.
The introduction of the new carbon dioxide-based excise tax on January 1, 2016 has also created false demand during the final month of 2015, resulting in weaker-than-expected sales last year.
Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT), the largest auto company in the Kingdom, is hoping for a conservative growth this year, and will announce its forecast in its annual press conference on January 31.
“First Car Buyers will be eligible to sell their vehicles and purchase new ones,” a TMT source noted.
He added that the military government is providing “strong stability”, which is crucial in helping boost car sales. “The market will definitely grow this year, but not in a dramatic way. There are still many factors that can affect car sales,” he said.
Toyota has not introduced a new model in 2016, except for the Indonesian-made Sienta mini MPV, and is expected to make a big splash with new models this year, particularly in the eco-car segment where Toyota only has the Yaris.
“We can’t disclose future vehicle details but you can imagine that Toyota hasn’t been making big moves for almost two years, so you can expect something really big,” he said, adding that information will be released at the January 31 press conference.
Sureethip La-Ongthong Chomthongdee, vice president at Nissan Motor Thailand, said the automaker would be offering its third eco-car model this year.
“The market in 2017 is expected to be better than 2016 because there will be new models [like the Nissan Note] introduced to the market while financial institutions start to relax their conditions. A good number of First Car Buyers will be looking to replace their vehicles. However, risks that could affect the market include fuel prices, exports, interest rates and the unemployment rate,” she said.
Suzuki, which sells mostly city cars, is hoping that the market will surge by as much as 10 per cent in 2017.
“The auto market in 2017 will be better than 2016 because of economic stimulus packages from the government, plus the five-year ownership period of the First Car Buyer programme has reached an end. At least 10 per cent of them will consider purchasing new vehicles this year,” he said.
According to Wallop, Thailand’s automobile market could reach 850,000 units this year, a 10-per-cent jump from approximately 750,000 units expected for 2016.
The luxury car market has fared well during the last several years, with the market being dominated by Mercedes-Benz.
“We expect 2017 to be a better year than 2016 and we plan to launch a large number of new models with the latest technologies,” a source from Mercedes-Benz (Thailand) said.
The German automaker had just extended a long-term production contract with its local partner Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant, displaying its confidence in the Thai market.
Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed strong growth in recent years thanks to a wider vehicle range with more affordable pricing, as well as attractive sales promotions, he added.
While BMW remains the arch rival of Mercedes, a new Audi distributorship this year is expected to strengthen the competition. While Audi AG has declined to comment on the issue, its corporate communications department said an official announcement should be made during the first quarter of this year