Shippers' woe goes on with January slump

Shippers' woe goes on with January slump

Car exports down 15% in first month

Auto-related businesses are increasingly worried about the prospects for car exports after a 19-month slump.

Surapong Paisitpatanapong, a spokesman for the automotive industry club of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said businesses are closely monitoring the country's vehicle exports this year as shipments to many regions remain tepid.

The monthly FTI report out yesterday noted Thailand's vehicle exports fell sharply by 14.5% year-on-year in January to 80,097 units, with export values dropping 18.1% to 41.4 billion baht.

The shipment of pickup trucks and passenger pickup vehicles (PPVs) in January dropped 21.6% and 42.3% to 38,996 units and 6,750 units, respectively. But passenger car exports rose by 6.49% to 34,351 units.

The proportion of shipments to the Middle East shrank to 7.4% in January from 14% a year earlier. The Middle East used to be a key region for Thai vehicle exports, particularly pickup trucks, making up 26% of total exports in 2015.

China's economic prospects are unpredictable because of US President Donald Trump's protectionist trade policies, making shippers wary.

Exports to Africa are also worrying this year after the South African government vowed to make more vehicles locally.

"The Middle East economy and oil prices will be the key risks for vehicle exporters this year," said Mr Surapong. "Last month only shipments to Oceania and North America grew year-on-year, so I think risks from the unstable global economy have taken their toll on vehicle exports."

He said businesses will monitor vehicle export performance in the first quarter before revising any annual forecasts.

The FTI is still maintaining its projection for the country's car exports to reach 1.2 million units this year, a slight increase of 0.97% from a year before.

In a related development, the FTI reported yesterday domestic car sales rose by 10.5% last month to 57,254 units.

The rise was attributed to car manufacturers introducing new models to stimulate local demand. But on a monthly basis, January sales fell by 34.1% from December.

The FTI reported most car segments grew in line with improving sentiment, leaving PPV sales as the only contraction, falling by 11.9% to 4,345 units.

"The country's car market is gradually recovering after four years of contraction, as the domestic economy is picking up," said Mr Surapong.

The club forecast domestic sales to grow by 4.05% this year to 800,000 units.

The club reported motorcycle sales dropped by 8.32% year-on-year in January to 147,224 units but increased by 18.1% on a monthly basis from December.

Car output in January rose by 3.12% to 152,261 units boosted by the growth of domestic sales.

The FTI forecasts Thai automotive output to grow by 2.6% in 2017 to 2 million cars.

Last year, car output totalled 1.94 million, up 1.64% from a year before.

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