Car exports down 35% in first five months of 2020

Car exports down 35% in first five months of 2020

Workers assemble a car at a plant in Prachin Buri. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Workers assemble a car at a plant in Prachin Buri. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

Thailand's car exports fell 35% year-on-year in the first five months of 2020 to 158.7 billion baht in value, pressured by the global economic slowdown and travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The country exported 300,501 cars in the period, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) automotive club.

Thailand produced 534,428 cars in the first five months of the year, a 40.2% year-on-year drop.

In 2019, car exports amounted to 233.85 billion baht from January to May, totalling 893,067 units.

"The FTI will closely monitor the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak that we are concerned could further harm the industry," said Surapong Paisitpatanapong, a spokesman for the automotive club.

The pandemic is the main factor in cutting the value of car exports by 35% year-on-year, he said.

The FTI forecasts full-year export value to drop 50% to 300 billion baht if a second wave of the virus hits large portions of the globe, compared with 545.96 billion baht in export sales in 2019.

In May, Thailand exported 29,894 cars, a 68.6% year-on-year decline, at a value of 17.5 billion baht, a 64% drop.

The club said domestic car sales in May totalled 40,418 units, down 54.1% year-on-year, as purchasing power weakened and financial institutions baulked at issuing auto loans.

In the first five months of 2020, 270,591 cars were sold in Thailand, a 38.2% year-on-year decline.

Car production in May fell 69.1% year-on-year to 56,035 units. Of the output, 20,070 were produced for the domestic market (down 76.9% year-on-year) and 35,965 were for export (down 61.9%).

But car production in the first two weeks of June rose 126.8% year-on-year, thanks to key manufacturers reopening plants after a month-long shutdown.

In May, the FTI announced that Thailand's car production in 2020 would likely miss its 1-million-unit target after April saw a 30-year low of 24,711 cars produced.

Suparat Sirisuwanangkura, senior executive adviser at Toyota Motor Thailand Co, said car makers are offering early retirement packages to workers to avoid further lay-offs.

The Thai automotive industry employs 700,000 people, of whom 20-30% are subcontractors laid off already.

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