Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT) is upbeat on local sales of premium vans to compete with the two dominant Korean brands in the segment, Hyundai and Kia.
Premium vans sold in Thailand are legally registered in the Car 2 category, meaning passenger vans above seven seats and occupying the same category as mass-market vans like Toyota's Commuter and Hiace and Nissan's Urvan.
The premium segment stood at 11,076 units sold in 2018, compared with 7,560 in 2017, said Vudhigorn Suriyachantananont, TMT's executive vice-president.
Premium vans with 8-11 seats in 2018 were dominated by the Hyundai H-1 (4,986 sold) and the Kia Grand Carnival (1,439).
Toyota had the Ventury in this van segment with 1,045 sold in 2018. This model used to be assembled at Toyota Auto Works (TAW) in Samut Prakan.
Last Friday, the Japanese car maker launched the all-new Majesty locally to capture the luxury segment and replace the locally assembled Ventury. Toyota will import the Majesty from the Inabe plant in Aichi prefecture.
The Majesty is subject to a 20% import duty under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement.
The Ventury had a lower price range of 1,367,000-1,662,000 baht, while the Majesty costs 1,709,000-2,199,000 baht.
Toyota expects to sell 3,600 Majesty vans annually, Mr Vudhigorn said.
"We are confident of being more competitive with the latest launched model in the premium van segment," he said. "Toyota will not localise assembly production for vans -- Majesty, Vellfire and Alphard -- because the imported models are competitive enough for the van segment."
The Japanese-import Vellfire and Alphard have higher price tags than the Majesty at 3,747,000-5,382,000 baht.
Separately, Toyota said its total car sales in the first half rose 20.8% to 171,502 units, capturing a market-leading 32.7% share.
Toyota expects to meet its domestic sales target of 330,000 units in 2019, up 4.7% from last year.
But overall car sales in Thailand fell for the first time in 30 months in June with 86,048 sold, down 2.1% year-on-year. Many car distributors have blamed the contraction on higher rejection rates and tighter loan restrictions at banks.
Mr Vudhigorn said Toyota has its own leasing company whose rejection rate is roughly 10%.
"The current rate is still manageable, but Toyota has to monitor auto loan sentiment closely in the remaining months in a bid to stay in line with regulations from the central bank," he said.
Toyota's leasing firm can offer zero down payment to potential customers who meet leasing conditions, but these will be excluded from buyers' loan value in order to control buyer debt and non-performing loans.