Car Manufacturing, domestic Sales and Exports from Thailand
Updated May 2019
Car production in Thailand has increased from below 500,000 units in 1998 to a record number of close to 2,5 million cars in both 2012 and 2013. (2,453,717 and 2,459,504 cars respectively) . As seen from the graph below, the production increase has not followed a straight line, but has been succeptible to economic downturns. From 2014 till 2018 production has been around 2 million cars a year, with a gradual increase to 2,167,694 in 2018.
Historically, from 1996 to 1998, car production slumped by 75% from 531,523 to just 140,402. Remember, this was the 1997 Asian economic crisis, that kind of started off in Thailand. (not shown anymore on graph below)
The 2008 world financial crisis and economic downturn resulted in a drop from 1,391,728 to 999,378 cars (-28%).
Recently, after the dismal 2009, the car industry in Thailand rebounded in 2010 with a vengeance. Total production, local sales, and exports of cars, all reached new highs. The heavily promoted Thai car industry was on the way to become one of the top 10 car producers in the world.
2011 looked like becoming a good follow-up to the higher production in 2010. However, the major flooding (with submersion of many car and car parts factories in central and lower Thailand) made for a dismal 4th quarter of 2011.
General Motors (diesel engine plant) and Ford (new car plant), as well as Mercedes-Benz Thailand (engine plant) all continued substantial investments in the country. The overall market is still dominated by Japanese brand cars. All Japanese manufacturers seem to have decided to concentrate on small, eco-friendly car production, to drive production.
2012 was a boom year for the Thai automotive industry. This was to great extent due to fiscal policies of the government, whereby first time car buyer could receive substantial discounts for their purchase. In 2012 Thailand was listed as the 10th most important car producer in the world!
2013 saw no substantial increase in production, which stayed however at a high level. Domestic sales declined a bit, while exports increased a little bit more (see graphics below).
2012 Domestic Sales (and Production) Peak
The government of Yingluck Shinawatra initiated a policy whereby first time car owners could get tax rebates of up to 100,000 baht. This scheme was available when buying small cars or (pick-up) trucks (engine sizes not over 1,500 cc, and car price under 1 million baht).
Tax rebates to first-time car buyers reached about 90 billion baht. Approximately 1.25 million cars and small trucks, have been sold, benefiting from the scheme. The money spent by the government (and the amount of cars sold) widely surpassed expectations. (Bangkok Post 12 January)
Arguably the goverment money could have benefitted other projects (like more rapid implementation of public transport), and likely the scheme caused indebtedness for a lot of buyers, the tax rebates notwithstanding.
Toyota sold 516,086 cars in Thailand, and exported another 405,892 cars from the country. This was a huge 78% increase over the numbers in 2011, when production also was hit by the end-year flooding of the central plains of Thailand.
2014 and 2015 saw significantly reduced production, more than 20% from its peak during 2012 and 2013. Arguably many buyers taking advantage of the tax benefits earlier, did not need to buy another car. As can be seen from the graph below, local car sales dropped massively during 2014 and 2015, from a peak of 1,436,144 cars in 2012 to 799,632 cars in 2015, a drop by 44,3 %. Car exports stayed steady, and now clearly exceed domestic sales. In 2015 and 2016, 1,204,895 and 1,188,515 vehicles were produced for export.
Data for 2017 (maybe minor changes still possible) : Total Car Production of 1,988,823 cars. Vehicles exported : 1,139,696. Total domestic Sales : 871,650 cars.
Data for 2018 : Total Car Production of 2,167,694 cars. Vehicles exported : 1,140,969 cars. Total domestic Sales : 1,041,739 cars. Domestic Car Sales surpassed the one million mark for the first time since 2013.
Seeing the number of cars on the road and in Bangkok especially, one would always expect that much more than 1 million cars were added each year.
As seen above, both domestic sales of cars (passenger cars included) and car exports increased substantially in 2012 and 2013, then dropped significantly. Exports are less affected.
Car manufacturing (and car parts manufacturing) is an important component of total Thai industry. The value of exports (cars and car parts) in 2015 was 25,61 billion U.S. Dollars. Car exports together with car part exports, are the most important (by value) export from Thailand.
Thailand has no car brand of its own. Many foreign companies are producing or assembling cars and car parts in the country.
Car assemblers in Thailand (through subsidiaries and/or joint ventures, 2010, to be updated) :
Mazda, Ford (Auto Alliance Thailand Co. Ltd.)
Honda, Chrysler, Hyundai (Bangchan General Assembly Co. Ltd.)
Mitsubishi (MMC Sittipol Co. Ltd.)
Opel (General Motors Thailand Ltd.)
Hino, Toyota Dyna (Hino Motors Thailand Ltd.)
Honda (Honda Automobile Thailand Co. Ltd.)
Isuzu (Isuzu Motors Company Thailand Ltd.)
Nissan, Suzuki (Siam Nissan Automobile Co. Ltd.)
VMC (Siam V.M.C. Automobile Co. Ltd.)
Isuzu modifications (Thai Rund Union Car Public Co. Ltd.)
Volvo (Thai Swedish Assembly Co. Ltd.)
Peugeot, Volkswagen (Y.M.C. Assembly Co. Ltd.)
Mercedes-Benz (Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co. Ltd.)
Toyota (Toyota Motor Thailand Co. Ltd.)
BMW, Land Rover, Rover (BMW Manufacturing Thailand Co. Ltd.)
[Source : Thailand Automotive Institute]
Local production of motorcycles had a recent peak in 2012 at 2,606,161 units.
Local sales of motorcycles are around or somewhat less than 2,000,000 units since 2004. Sales are effected by the regular business cycle, but much less so than domestic car sales. However, it is clear that while local production is still high, that this industry seems to have peaked out.
Exports of motorcycles is way below the peak number of 2007.
Motorcycles produced in 2016 : 1,820,358. Exports : 926,277. Domestic Sales : 1,721,148 (including imported vehicles).
Numbers for 2017 : 2,055,193 motorcycles produced. Exports : 849,081. Domestic Sales : 1,810,771.
Numbers for 2018 : 2,063,076 motorcycles produced. Exports : 886,275. Domestic Sales : 1,788,323
Anyone visiting Bangkok will know that a lot of motorcycles are crowding the roads, they regularly seem to form 'wild bunches' at traffic lights. When the sign turns to 'green' it is a sight to behold. Motorcycle drivers and passengers form the majority of road accident victims. On the other hand, motorcycle drivers regularly are a hazard for pedestrians, by racing through traffic lights when red, and by driving on the sidewalks.
The motorcycle industry is a substantial one, though not really expanding further. Nevertheless, one could argue that the number of road accidents and casualties on the road, would decrease a lot, if motorcycles would not be there. Roughly speaking, about 80 % of deaths on the road, are motorcycle drivers and their passengers. There seems to be no controlling drivers' behaviour, and law enforcement is desperately poor. So as long as we see these numbers of motorcycle sales, we should likely not see much improvement (if any) in road casualties.