Toyota sees bigger market for eco-cars

Toyota sees bigger market for eco-cars

Commitment shown with Yaris Ativ launch

Toyota Motor Thailand president Michinobu Sugata (centre), with chief engineer Takatomo Suzuki (right) and executive vice-president Vudhigorn Suriyachantananont at yesterday's world debut of the Yaris Ativ sedan.
Toyota Motor Thailand president Michinobu Sugata (centre), with chief engineer Takatomo Suzuki (right) and executive vice-president Vudhigorn Suriyachantananont at yesterday's world debut of the Yaris Ativ sedan.

Toyota Motor Thailand is upbeat on its eco-car segment, expecting sales of 38,000 units for a 3.7% rise this year.

The local arm of the Japanese carmaker yesterday marked the world debut of the Yaris Ativ sedan, its second eco-car model after the Yaris hatchback launched in October 2013.

Executive vice-president Vudhigorn Suriyachantananont said locally made, eco-friendly cars remain popular in Thailand because of their affordable pricing and fuel efficiency.

The first Yaris eco-car had amassed sales of 150,000 units as of May, while the company exported 51,200 of the model to more than 70 countries last year.

Toyota had the highest volume of eco-cars sold in Thailand with 36,648 last year, up 1.2%.

Toyota's market share of 32% in eco-cars put it ahead of Mazda, Suzuki, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Honda.

Mr Vudhigorn said Toyota forecasts the overall eco-car segment to account for 20%, or 160,000 units, of the Thai car market this year, up from 15% and 114,093 units last year.

"We believe that the eco-car vehicles have the potential over the next few years to represent up to 25% of the Thai car market," he said.

In 2007, Thailand embarked on the first phase of the eco-car scheme, attracting five manufacturers: Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Toyota. Late 2013 saw the launch of the second phase, for which 10 carmakers signed up.

Only Mazda has started its eco-car operations under the second phase. GM withdrew from the project in 2015.

According to the Federation of Thai Industries, Thailand's eco-car output totalled 359,325 units in 2016, up 4.9% from the previous year. Of the total, 240,207 were slated for export and 119,118 for domestic sale.

Combined eco-car production from March 2010 to 2016 amounted to 1.71 million units. There are now 13 Thai-made eco-car models by six makers.

Suparat Sirisuwanangkura, senior vice-president for corporate strategic planning and marketing, said that while Toyota applied for the second phase and invested 10.4 billion baht to make 100,000 vehicles a year, the company also must complete all the requirements under the first phase, especially output.

Each carmaker under the first phase has a commitment to the Board of Investment (BoI) to make 400,000 eco-cars from the fifth to the eighth year of production.

Regulations in the second phase are tighter, with a requirement of 500,000 eco-cars from the fourth to the eighth year.

Toyota was recently granted BoI privileges for hybrid electric vehicles to assemble 7,000 HEVs a year, make 70,000 batteries and produce other parts totalling 9.1 million units a year under a total investment of 19.016 billion baht.

According to Mr Suparat, any future HEVs could possibly count in the eco-car output because the BoI allows a merging of two projects in terms of production.

"If Toyota's HEVs can meet the eco-car specifications such as CO2 emission and fuel consumption, the company will hit the eco-car minimum output sooner," Mr Suparat said.

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