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Mazda looks into making electric vehicles in Thailand

Apr 06. 2017
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By The Nation

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Japanese carmaker Mazda has responded to the government’s Thailand 4.0 technology policy, with a feasibility study on producing electric vehicles (EVs) in Thailand.

According to Mazda, the company is in the second stage of its “Building Block Strategy”, which consists of introducing high-performance automotive technology and fuel-saving technology (SKYACTIV technology).

“The third stage is the move towards the use of electric powertrain assistance components. The Thai government’s EV project that was approved by the Cabinet last week harmonises with Mazda’s philosophy, and Mazda is interested in studying the possibilities of initializing such a project in Thailand,” said Chanchai Trakarnudomsuk, president of Mazda Sales (Thailand) Co Ltd (MST).

Mazda has been growing sales dramatically in recent years thanks to new models with SKYACTIV technology, and 2017 has been fruitful for the company so far. 

During the first quarter of 2017 the company sold 11,562 vehicles, posing a steady growth of 6 per cent. March sales were even more spectacular, surging by 30 per cent while the 2017 Mazda2 made sales of almost 3,000 units, equivalent to a growth of 47 per cent. 

“The outstanding performance shows that Mazda has taken the right approach in the Thai market. This year the company wants to further raise the level of its service, after-sales and parts availability, as well as introducing the new Mazda Corporate Identity (MCI) showroom theme in its drive to become a premium brand. Mazda is also responding to the innovation-based Thailand 4.0 government policy by preparing to carry out a fully EV study program in Thailand,” Chanchai said.

Chanchai said that throughout the years, Mazda has given its confidence to Thailand, making the country an integrated manufacturing base, and the first country outside of Japan with Mazda vehicle assembly, engine production and transmission production. Thailand is also Mazda’s parts distribution center for the Asean region. Mazda has also invested heavily in Thailand in many important projects, such as the Eco Car Phase 2 programme (Mazda2), Super Cluster programme and the multimillion-dollar engine and transmission plant in Chon Buri province.

“Sales figures since January has been positive, helping the industry to see growth during the first quarter of the year. This is a good sign, and considering that the economy is starting to pick up, this is like a light at the end of the tunnel after years of cloudiness. From now on all sides must prepare for the positive change in the economy. And with the recent Cabinet approval for EV project, Mazda must quickly study the possibilities because it matches our mid-term business plan,” Chanchai said.

“Auto sales is another measuring index of the economy. The automobile industry is one of the country’s main industries, and with the supporting industries, valued at hundreds of billions of baht. Thailand produces and export vehicles, particularly 1-tonne pickup trucks and eco cars that are supported by the government. Thailand is the top auto producer in the Asea region with more than 2 million units produced annually and exported globally to markets such as AseanN, Asia-Oceania and the Middle East. Apart from drawing in huge amounts of income to the country, the automobile industry also created hundreds of thousands of jobs and serve as a driving force behind the Thai economy,” Chanchai added.

“From 2014-2016 the Thai auto market experienced a slowdown after the end of the first car buyer program that was blamed for stealing future demand, leading to increased household debts and weakened auto sales in following years. Thai auto sales fell to 800,000-900,000 units, compared to an overblown 1.3-1.4 million during the first car Buyer program years, while total production fell from 2.4 million units per year to 2 million units per year. “However, the auto market is expected to start recovering this year with a growth of 6-8 per cent, finishing at approximately 800,000 units,” he added.

Meanwhile in March this year, Mazda sold a total of 5,015 vehicles, up 30 per cent compared to the corresponding month last year (3,871 units). The 2017 Mazda2, launched in February, was the top-selling model with a record 2,904 units sold, growing by 47 per cent. The next best-seller was the BT-50 PRO pickup, with sales of 822 units, increasing by 37 per cent, followed by the Mazda3 that was launched in January, with sales of 520 units, up by 32 per cent and reflecting its best performance in 15 months. Sales of the CX-3 and CX-5 crossovers were 500 units and 267 units respectively, while two units of the Mazda MX-5 roadster were sold.

Chanchai added that sales of three Mazda models (Mazda2, Mazda3, CX-3) improved dramatically after they went through cosmetic changes and came with added features such as SKYACTIV-vehicle Dynamics and G-Vectoring Control (GVC) that improves handling and safety in real-life situations. 

During the first quarter, Mazda’s sales aggregate reached 11,562 units, the highest in four years and equivalent to a growth of 6 per cent compared to the same period last year (10,904 units). Mazda2 sales accounted for 6,633 units (up 14 per cent), followed by the BT-50 PRO with 1,791 units (up 17 per cent), Mazda3 with 1,324 units (up 11 per cent), CX-3 with 1,015 units and CX-5 with 795 units, in addition to 4 units of the MX-5.

“The fact that sales of Mazda vehicles have been growing since January tells us that Mazda products are always in demand, and the increasing sales figures show that we are competing heavily against ourselves,” Chanchai said “Our determination in developing products that suit the requirements of customers in every group pushed Mazda to come up with innovative technologies for both performance and fuel economy like SKYACTIV. The attractive KODO design theme is another important character of Mazda that attracts new customers to the brand.”

According to Chanchai, Mazda will concentrate on improving its aftersales service, showroom, personnel and parts inventory in order to effectively cater to the rising number of Mazda customers since the SKYACTIV technology was introduced two years ago.

Factors enabling Mazda sustainable success in Thailand

1. Dealer network – Mazda has moved forward in establishing dealerships covering all sales areas in Thailand along with improving existing showrooms with the new Mazda Corporate Identity (MCI).

2. Products – Mazda has products that are class-leading and come with eye-catching design and SKYACTIV technology, including SKYACTIV-vehicle Dynamics and G-Vectoring Control. New and improved models are launched into the market consistently throughout the year.

3. Aftersales service – Mazda aims to turn weakness into strength, and is moving ahead in upgrading nationwide aftersales service into one standard, and that is the global standard. Today customers can walk into any Mazda showroom and have this experience.

4. A brand loved by customers – Building a strong connection with the customer by staging activities that deliver ZOOM-ZOOM driving experience to create a Mazda society.

 

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