Chinese-Thai MG maker aims to shore up flagging Thai sales

Chinese-Thai MG maker aims to shore up flagging Thai sales

SAIC Motor-CP president Wu Huan at yesterday's launch of the MG5 saloon.
SAIC Motor-CP president Wu Huan at yesterday's launch of the MG5 saloon.

Chinese-Thai joint venture SAIC Motor-CP Co remains focused on Thailand despite sluggish sales and unfavourable economic prospects.

President Wu Huan yesterday said his company must succeed in the local market first before making export plans.

"Before making any shipments, we want to become first a top-tier car brand in the Thai market and more widely recognised by Thai consumers," he said.

"However, in a longer-term strategy we still seek an opportunity to export MGs for right-hand-drive countries as planned."

Mr Wu did not elaborate on the proper amount of sales in the country before the company decides to begin exports, nor the exact time frame.

Right-hand-drive countries include Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

Founded in 2012, SAIC Motor-CP is a joint venture of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and Thai agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group.

The Chinese company owns 51%.

The car maker's 9-billion-baht first factory, with total production capacity for 50,000 units, was built in Rayong's Hemaraj Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate and started operations in June 2014.

The company launched the 1.8-litre MG6 saloon that same month. Just 300 MG6s sold last year, well below the target of 2,000.

SAIC Motor-CP launched the 1.5-litre MG3 hatchback this past March, and yesterday it introduced the 1.5-litre MG5 saloon with a price range of 649,000-759,000 baht.

The full-year sales target is 5,000 MGs, but a mere 1,890 were sold in the first nine months.

Pongsak Lertrudeewattanavong, vice-president of MG Sales (Thailand), said the company expected the MG5 to fare on a par with the MG3, which represents 80% of total sales this year.

SAIC Motor-CP is one of 10 car companies that applied for the second phase of the government's eco-car scheme.

Its investment application to make 110,000 eco-cars a year worth 7.6 billion baht won Board of Investment approval last November.

Each eco-car maker is required to start production by 2019, but they are allowed to withdraw from the scheme at any time without penalty.

Earlier this month, SAIC Motor-CP said it would make its eco-cars at a second factory to begin construction later this year.

Mr Wu had said previously that the company would put off eco-car production, citing Thailand's sluggish car industry.

The firm would reconsider the production plan once the market recovered, he said, predicting Thailand's overall car sales would decline by 9.3% this year to 800,000 vehicles, marking a third straight year of falling sales.

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