By KINGSLEY WIJAYASINHA
Toyota Motor Thailand Co Ltd (TMT) president Michinobu Sugata told media at Toyota’s mid-year press conference that Thai auto sales could reach 980,000 units this year due to an improving economy, tourism growth and intense market competition among auto makers. In 2017, 871,647 vehicles were sold in the country.
Earlier this year, Toyota forecast sales of 900,000 units for 2018.
“The economic outlook has become more favourable with GDP growth that has been raised to 4.4 per cent, driven by exports, tourism, government investment in infrastructure projects, and improving customer confidence,” Sugata said, adding that the 19 per cent market growth for the first half was beyond Toyota’s expectations.
He said from January to June, 489,118 vehicles were sold in Thailand, consisting of 190,310 passenger cars for a 17.9 per cent increase, while commercial vehicles sales amounted to 298,808 units for a 20.2 per cent rise.
The top three brands in the auto market for the first half were Toyota with 141,989 units (26.2 per cent increase), Isuzu with 86,363 units (12 per cent rise) and Honda with 59,838 units (2.6 per cent decrease).
In the passenger car market, Toyota leads with sales of 53,512 units for an 18.5 per cent increase, thanks to the increased popularity of the facelifted Revo pickup truck and new models like the C-HR and Yaris Ativ.
Honda is in second position with 46,287 units (0.7 per cent increase) followed by Mazda, highly successful with minor change models of its line-up in Thailand, with 24,378 units (43.6 per cent increase).
Meanwhile, Toyota is hoping to reclaim its leadership in the pickup truck market as well, after being overtaken by arch-rival Isuzu in recent years. Isuzu led the pickup truck market for the first six months with an aggregate of 78,997 units (12.2 per cent increase) but Toyota is narrowing the gap with the facelifted Revo, with six-month sales of 76,758 units (21.6 per cent increase). American auto maker Ford has overtaken Japanese counterparts such as Nissan and Isuzu to claim third place with 31,910 units (33.6 per cent increase).
Vudhigorn Suriyachanta-nanont, executive vice president of TMT, said Toyota plans to maintain its lead in the passenger car market until the end of the year, and has a good chance in the commercial market.
“Although we are still in the No.2 position in the pickup market, after launching the 2018 Hilux Revo two months ago, our pickup sales have improved dramatically,” he said. “We can’t predict the results, but we are trying our best to continuously offer customers better products as well sales offers.”
Toyota hopes to achieve 31.2-per cent growth this year, and announced a 315,000-unit sales target for 2018 (32.1 per cent increase). Toyota sales projections are: passenger cars (116,000 units), commercial vehicles (199,000 units).
For exports, Toyota has a target of 300,000 units, the same level as last year despite 7 per cent growth during the first half of 2018 (145,080 units) worth Bt74.25 billion.
Toyota started Revo pickup exports to Japan this year and in addition to Australia, helping to grow exports during the first six months of the year.
But Sugata said that a downward trend in the Middle Eastern market has prevented the company from raising projections.