Suzuki expands in anticipation of surge

Suzuki Motor (Thailand) will spend 1.3 billion baht to raise annual production capacity at its Rayong plant to 100,000 vehicles on the back of this year's sales forecast of 60,000.

Wallop Treererkngam, the general manager for marketing at Suzuki Motor (Thailand), gives his opinion of the Swift eco-car. The local unit of the Japanese car maker expects the model to continue to be popular despite the end of the government’s firsttime car buyer scheme. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

The expansion will start by mid-year and be finished next year, said Wallop Treererkngam, the general manager for marketing at the local unit of the Japanese car maker.

Suzuki's factory in Rayong's Hemaraj Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate has annual capacity of 50,000 Swift eco-cars.

"The expansion is aimed at serving the domestic market and Suzuki drivers in Thailand, who number 50,000 now," he said.

Suzuki spent 8 billion baht in 2011 to invest in the first phase of the new plant in Rayong to build the Swift.

The state's eco-car policy promotes fuel efficiency, and the Thai-built Swift comes with a 1.25-litre petrol engine, replacing the 1.5-litre model imported from Indonesia and offering more than 20 kilometres per litre. Other models _ the APV, SX4, Grand Vitara and Carry _ are imported from Indonesia.

In Southeast Asia, Suzuki has three production bases _ Thailand, Indonesia (130,000 vehicles a year) and Myanmar (100 a month).

The Thai production base will export eco-cars to Indonesia and Malaysia, while Indonesia is responsible for exporting the Carry minitruck to the Thai market.

"We'll export new Swifts to Australia in the third quarter," said Mr Wallop.

This year, Suzuki expects to sell 60,000 vehicles of three models _ the new Swift (43,000), the Carry (12,000) and the new MPV (5,000). The company reported sales of 24,665 vehicles last year, with the Swift and new Swift making up 17,000 combined, the Carry 6,000.

"Suzuki expects to increase sales by more than 200% this year thanks to new Swift sales," said Mr Wallop.

"We believe eco-cars can serve car demand even though the government's first-time car buyer scheme has expired."

In a move to handle the expected sales surge, Suzuki plans to expand the number of showrooms and service centres nationwide to 100 this year from 85 now.

The new MPV _ a five-door, seven-seat family car _ will be launched this month.

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Writer: Piyachart Maikaew