Toyota upbeat despite rallies

Despite the ongoing political stand-off, Toyota Motor Corporation remains committed to expanding production capacity in Thailand to 1 million units a year over the next 3-4 years.

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Kyoichi Tanada, president of Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT), said yesterday that the company has bought a plot of land near existing plants in Chachoengsao province but the expansion timetable is still up in the air.

Toyota runs four factories here, including a 12-billion-baht facility at Gateway 2 in Chachoengsao that became fully operational at the end of 2013 with a yearly production of 300,000 cars.

TMT aims to increase annual capacity by 100,000-200,000 cars at a cost of 15-20 billion baht a year.

Mr Tanada acknowledged that political risk is a factor that normally influences foreign investment decisions.

Toyota's Thailand plants are now running at their maximum annual capacity of 850,000 vehicles.

In 2013, Toyota sold 445,464 cars in the Thai market, down 13.7% from a year earlier, while exports totalled 430,929 units, up 6% over 2012.

The company had a 33.5% share of the Thai market, down from 35.9% in 2012. This year, TMT projects local sales of 400,000 cars, down 10.2% year-on-year. But market share is forecast to rise to 34.8%. Exports would reach 445,000 units.

"Domestic car sales are expected to stand above 1 million cars for the third straight year, but demand has decreased gradually after the first-time car buyer scheme expired in 2012," said Mr Tanada.

He said Thai car sales are likely to fall by 13.6% to 1.15 million vehicles in 2014, mainly on weaker consumption and slow economic growth. In 2013, sales fell by 7.4% to 1.33 million vehicles.

"If Thailand's political unrest is prolonged, hitting overall economic growth accordingly, industry sales may miss their target," he said.

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