Early-year sales drive Ford's 2017 outlook

Car demand expected to rise with economy

A Ford Everest on display at the 36th Bangkok International Motor show. The company sold 7,450 vehicles in January and February, a 38.7% increase year-on-year. WICHAN CHAROENKIATPAKUL

US carmaker Ford Motor expects Thai sales to grow healthily this year after rising by 38.7% year-on-year in the first two months of 2017, led primarily by the Thai-made Ford Ranger pickup.

Narong Sritalayon, deputy managing director of Ford Thailand, said vehicle sales in Thailand this year are expected to grow at the same pace as the country's overall domestic market or 4%, reaching 800,000 units.

Ford reported its domestic car sales from January to February totalled 7,450 units, a rise of 38.7% from the same period last year. The company's Ranger nameplate led the pack, accounting for 80% of all deliveries.

Thailand is now considered one of the top three markets in Asean for Ford, with sales from Thailand totalling 40,972 vehicles in 2016, up 12.4% from a year before.

Sales from the Philippines sales came next at 33,688 vehicles, up 33%, while those from Vietnam totalled 29,011 vehicles, up 40% year-on-year.

Ford reported its combined sales in Asean rose 11.5% in 2016 to 115,979 vehicles, marking its fourth consecutive year of record sales.

Mark Kaufman, president of Ford Asean, said Thailand will remain the key production hub for Ford in the region, with most Ford models here, including the Ranger, Everest and EcoSport, being made and shipped from Ford's production facilities in Thailand -- both as completely built-up and completely knocked-down units.

At present, the Michigan-based giant runs two plants in Rayong.

The first is handled by AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT), a joint venture with Mazda. In 1997, the US carmaker allied with Mazda to operate the US$1.66-billion AAT facility in Rayong's Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate. Ford accounts for half of AAT's annual production of 270,000 vehicles.

The second plant is run by Ford Thailand Manufacturing (FTM), located in the same province. That plant has annual passenger car production capacity of 180,000 units, including the Fiesta, Focus and EcoSport.

Ford in November 2015 announced a $186-million infusion for FTM to make the Ford Ranger pickup.

The move is aimed at meeting demand for the popular model.

But Mr Kaufman said Ford may be subject to a loss of tax privileges given by the Board of Investment this year, as the second plant is highly unlikely to make 100,000 units a year as required by the BoI in the fifth year.

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