December domestic auto sales, production drop year-on-year

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BANGKOK, Jan 18 – Thailand’s total domestic automobile sales in December fell by 41.40 per cent to 54,575 units year-on-year, but increased by 109.35 per cent compared to the previous month, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Spokesman Surapong Paisitpattanapong of the FTI Automotive Industry Club said Wednesday that the rise in auto production was because almost all automobile plants have resumed operations and have begun delivering vehicles to customers after Thailand’s devastating floods though the plants are not yet fully operational.

Overall auto sales last year, from January through December, were recorded at 794,081 units, down 0.80 per cent compared to 2010.

Meanwhile, December auto production dropped 27.64 per cent to 99,426 units compared to the same period in 2010, but rose by 319.61 from November 2011.

Mr Surapong reported that auto production in 2011 totalled 1,457,795 units, shrinking by 11.40 per cent, year-on-year.

The country’s flood crisis in late 2011 halted auto production as the mega-floods hit the central provinces, where many industrial estates are located, which immediately led to a shortage of parts to supply the country’s automobile assembly plants.

The widespread inundation slashed auto production in October and November, falling in November to a record low of 23,695 units for the preceding 151 months

Not since mid-1999 – more than 12 years ago — had Thailand’s automotive production been so low.

In a related development, Japanese leading automaker Toyota Motors reported that flooding in Thailand and the devastating March 11 tsunami in Japan affected its auto production in Thailand, dragging its 2011 overall sales to 794,081 units, a drop of 0.8 per cent year-on-year.

Kyoichi Tanada, President of Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd., said the company was confident that the Thai auto market could continue to expand to meet the demand of the markets which will lead to competition among automakers as well as government policy supporting the automotive industry.

Mr Tanada projected Thai auto sales to grow to 1.1 million units, marking the first time in Thailand’s auto sale history that the auto sales volume will exceed one million units.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Thailand projected its total auto sales in 2012 to reach 450,000 units, including 214,000 passenger cars and 236,000 commercial vehicles, he added.

Mr Tanada asserted that Toyota Motor Thailand will continue expanding its investment here and will build a new auto manufacturing plant at Gateway City Industrial Estate in Chachoengsao province, named Gateway Plant 2, and will resume operations at its TAW factory, which manufactured the Toyota Fortuner.

The combined production capacity of the two factories will reach 88,000 units, with an investment value of Bt8.2 billion.

Meanwhile, the STM factory, which produces engines of Toyota vehicles, will also expand its production capacity.

All expansion is to meet rising market demand, the Toyota Thailand president added.