Japanese carmaker Honda Automobile Thailand seeks to rev up sales of its sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) this year, aiming to sell 33,000-34,000 units, up 13-16% from a year before.
Natt Patipanthada, the company's marketing general manager, said Honda is competitive in the SUV segment, controlling 60% of market share, while Thai drivers have responded quite well to diesel-run SUVs.
Honda has actively been engaged in the SUV segment since late 2014 with the mid-size HR-V, later launching the smaller BR-V in January 2016.
Prior to 2014, Honda had 20-30% market share in the SUV segment with the larger CR-V.
Yesterday, Honda debuted the Thai-made fifth generation CR-V, available in both 1.6-litre diesel and 2.4-litre petrol engines, with prices ranging from 1.4-1.7 million baht.
Thailand is the third country to launch the all-new CR-V after the United States and Canada.
For the previous four generations of CR-Vs, 137,000 units have been sold in Thailand and 8.7 million units have been sold worldwide.
Mr Natt said Honda expects to sell 10,000 CR-Vs this year, with the gasoline platform accounting for 60% of sales and the rest going to diesel.
Combined with two other Honda SUV models -- the mid-size HR-V and the smaller BR-V -- Honda aims to sell 33,000-34,000 SUVs this year, up 13-16% from 29,210 units last year.
Mr Natt forecasts Thailand's overall SUV market, excluding passenger pickup vehicles, will reach 55,000 units this year, up from 48,651 units last year.
"The SUV market has changed over the past three years. The segment now accounts for 15% of the passenger car market, up from only 6-8%," said Mr Natt.
At present, gasoline engine dominate the SUV market. Only three car brands -- Chevrolet (Captiva), Mazda (CX-3 and CX-5) and Honda (CR-V) -- employ diesel engines.
Honda this year plans to ship around 75,000 units of the new CR-V, both completely built-up and completely knocked-down, to Asia and Oceania.
Chief operating officer Pitak Pruittisarikorn said Honda currently has no plans to install the diesel engine in other Honda models.
Honda expects its car sales to increase by 12% this year to 120,000 units, with the overall car market projected to stand at around 800,000 cars this year, an increase of 5% from 2016.
Honda said earlier in January it is set to raise car production by 10% this year to 220,000 units to cope with recovering domestic car sales.
Anticipated economic growth this year, driven by the government's stimulus measures, will be a boon to all business sectors, including automobiles, while the government's promise to hold general elections late this year should boost private investment sentiment, the company said.