Tan Chong International Ltd, the authorised importer and distributor for Japanese car maker Subaru, expects a sharp rise in Thai sales once its Malaysia assembly plant starts up this year.
Sales could reach 2,600 cars this year, up from 150 in 2012, says managing director Joseph Ong.
In 2011, Tan Chong International, a listed firm on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, entered a deal with Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries to assemble Subaru compact sport utility vehicles in Malaysia.
Under a US$20-million investment, the plant opened last December with an annual production capacity of 6,000 cars, including the popular Subaru XV SUV. The output is aimed at serving Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Some 80-85% of Subaru sales in these countries are of the XV, with the rest for other models imported from Japan.
Mr Ong projects sales of the XV in the three countries to reach 5,500 units by year-end.
In Thailand, sales in the first seven months numbered about 1,400, of which 500 were back orders from last year's Thailand Motor Expo.
Setting up the plant in neighbouring Malaysia will help lower the retail price by 30%, letting Tan Chong offer the XV at a competitive price of 1.35 million baht. Until now, all locally sold Subarus were imported from Japan.
One of six Subaru models for sale in Thailand, the XV crossover won the Good Design Award from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion in 2012.
Tan Chong's wholly owned subsidiary, Motor Image Group, handles distribution in Asean countries. In Thailand, Motor Image has 15 showrooms and service centres nationwide.
Yesterday the company opened a 20-million-baht Bang Na outlet to back its expansion. Motor Image also plans to set up 10-15 TC satellite service centres this year.
Subaru forecasts global sales of 750,000 units in 2013, up 6% from last year's 706,612. The US is the biggest market with sales of 365,000 expected, followed by Japan with 268,000.
About the author
- Writer: Piyachart Maikaew
Position: Business Reporter