Honda overtakes Toyota in Thailand sales
By Kingsley Wijayasinha, The Nation/Asia News Network January 22, 2014, 12:13 am TWN
The Nation/Asia News Network--Toyota has lost its passenger car crown in Thailand to arch-rival Honda for the first time in history.
Toyota started trailing behind Honda by as many as 18,000 units after the third quarter of last year but managed to close the gap dramatically during the final quarter thanks to the popularity of its Yaris eco-car.
However, by year-end the world's largest auto company was unable to overtake Honda, finishing about 3,000 units behind. Honda sold 193,185 passenger cars, up 18.2 percent, while Toyota sold 190,101, down 15.4 percent.
However, the gap is much larger — 213,155 units — in figures compiled by the Japan Chamber of Commerce, which includes sport-utility vehicles such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 in the passenger-car segment. Toyota's report places the CR-V and CX-5 in the commercial-vehicle segment.
Toyota executives say its performance in the passenger-car market was affected by the phasing out of the Corolla, as production was reduced to prepare for the new model launched this month.
"We lost and that is not good, but on the other hand we couldn't help it, as the Yaris came out only during the final two months while Honda was able to capitalize on its eco-car during the whole year," Kyoichi Tanada, president of Toyota Motor Thailand Co., said yesterday.
"The Corolla also reached the end of its life span and we had to cut production," he said.
However, in the "1 Ton" pickup truck segment, which includes pickups and PPVs (pickup passenger vehicles), Toyota was able to maintain its leadership with 236,751 units sold, followed by Isuzu with 183,079.
The auto market finished 2013 down 7.4 percent at 1,330,668 units, which was higher than many had expected.
While the populist first-car-buyer scheme ended in 2012, it stole purchasing power from 2013. Last year auto companies sacrificed profits to clear out stocks with sales promotions, as many customers decided to ditch their first-car orders, leaving a huge inventory for auto dealers to manage. Many who placed orders under the first-car scheme also dropped their tax-break rights in order to enjoy the better benefits offered by car companies hoping to move inventory.
Tanada said auto sales were expected to decrease to 1.15 million units this year, but if the political situation worsens, sales would drop further.
"Right now there have not been any sizeable effects but we can notice fewer customers visiting our showrooms, and we are monitoring it," he said.
"We can't predict the effects of the political situation in order to estimate this year's auto sales more accurately. But we are ready to cut production according to the situation if needed," he said. He wants Toyota's output to reach a million units per year, but that will need extra investment for a second plant in Ban Pho, Chachoengsao, where Toyota already runs a plant for the Hilux pickup.
"We are producing about 850,000 vehicles in Thailand per year, and to reach 1 million units we need a new plant, which would cost about Bt15 billion to build," he said.
"But there must be political stability to persuade Toyota Motor Corp to make additional investment in Thailand," he added.
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