Ford Thai sales up 50 percent, Toyota plans big investment

Ford1The Thai unit of United States Big Three automaker Ford Motor Corporation saw its sales rise 50 percent to over 12,000 vehicles during the first quarter of 2017, a sign of a reviving economy, as Japanese auto giant Toyota Corporation announced a major investment in the Kingdom as its export production base.

Ford’s sales figures increased its market share to 6.2 percent from just 1.4 percent during the same quarter one year ago, and the 58 percent pace of its sales increase was well ahead of any of its rivals. Sales were driven by demand for its Ranger pickup truck and its Everest and EcoSport SUVs. Thailand is one of the largest markets in the world for pickup trucks.

“We continue to make significant progress in Thailand, particularly with the success of Ranger, which continues to increase its share of the highly competitive pickup truck segment,” said Ford Thailand’s Deputy Managing Director Narong Sritalayon.

In the pickup truck segment, Ford had 11.3 percent of the market during the first quarter, and 12.6 percent during the month of March. Ford sells 24 different varieties of the Ranger in Thailand from high-end to more affordable models, giving Thai customers a wide range of choices.

The Everest SUV saw its sales increase 24 percent during the quarter to 1,764 vehicles for 12 percent of the SUV market. The EcoSport, which is more compact, enjoyed a sales increase of 27 percent, but total units were just 463 vehicles.

Japanese automakers dominate vehicle sales in Thailand. Ford broke into the Thai market in the 1990s with its Jeep models, and leveled the playing field with Japanese competitors.

Toyota Motors of Japan, however, has consistently been the overall leader in vehicle sales in Thailand, and last week Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversees the economic ministries, said that Toyota executives had told him they are ready to name Thailand as its compact car export hub.

“The decision is likely to be approved by Toyota’s board at its meeting in May,” Somkid said.

Once approved, Toyota would follow up with its largest investment ever in Thailand in order to upgrade its compact car development center, company executives said.

Ninnart Chaitharapinyo, vice-chairman of Toyota Motor Thailand, said the company wants to employ hybrid technologies and produce a range of alternative vehicles such as electric vehicles. Toyota will take time, however, to gauge consumer reactions and preferences before deciding which of the new technologies will be worthy of the highest investment.