Audi looks to make inroads in Thailand
German luxury carmaker Audi is studying the feasibility of setting up a new production facility in Asia and has Thailand in mind as a viable site.
Christian Gussen, director for Southeast Asia, India and Taiwan, said Asia is a strong potential market for Audi cars and the Ingolstadt-based parent firm is particularly keen on Asean.
"Audi sales in the region that I am in charge of totalled about 17,500 units last year, and the company expects organic growth in the long run," he said, adding that India topped Asian sales in 2016, followed by Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Mr Gussen was in Bangkok on Wednesday to open an Audi showroom operated by the new authorised distributor, Meister Technik Co.
Audi appointed Meister Technik, owned by the Lamsam family, in January this year to be the authorised importer and distributor of Audi in Thailand, replacing German Motor Work Co, which is run by the Leenutaphong family.
Meister Technik is majority-owned by Krisada Lamsam, vice-chairman of the board of directors of leading life insurers Muang Thai Life Assurance and a former vice-president of Kasikornbank, and Nualphan Lamsam, chief executive and president of Muang Thai Insurance.
Mr Gussen, along with the new distributor, sees good prospects for Audi sales in Thailand from this year onwards.
At present, Audi runs 11 production facilities in 10 countries, including two plants in Germany. It runs three Asian plants in China, India and Indonesia.
Audi makes 2,088,000 cars a year.
Mr Lamsam, Meister Technik's chairman, said for the first year of operations, the company set a sales target of 600 Audi cars, facilitated by the introduction of 13 models, all of which are completely built-up units imported from Germany.
Audi saw 124 cars sold in 2016, compared with 142 units in 2015. As of last year, there were 9,049 Audi cars registered in Thailand.
Mr Krisada said the company will spend 1.4 billion baht this year, mainly on two new, wholly-owned outlets and service centres on New Phetchaburi Road and Pradit Manutham Road.
The outlet on New Phetchaburi Road is now ready, while the one on Pradit Manutham Road is scheduled to open by 2019.
"I believe Audi, with its competitive prices, can be a good alternative in the luxury car segment for Thai buyers," he said, adding that Meister Technik will provide trustworthy after-sales service for Audi customers, including Audi cars from independent distributors, known as grey market.
At present, German rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW control roughly 90% of Thailand's luxury car market, with total annual sales of 20,500 vehicles.
Other luxury car brands include Audi, Sweden's Volvo and Japan's Lexus.