Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Supercars steal show

Carmakers put exotic vehicles on display in bid to claw back sales

Published on December 12, 2007

Supercars steal show


Although the new-car market has taken a beating this year, with sales sliding 12 per cent, there was no shortage of exotic supercars at the Bangkok International Motor Expo, which ended on Monday. You did not have to look very hard to see that, although car companies were trying hard to offload inventory with loads of campaigns to attract people to their vehicles. Each auto company hoped to make up for the drop in sales during the rest of the year.

Keep looking and you could find carmakers trying to make sure you knew their cars were E20-gasohol capable. But what made the real difference for customers was the 5-per-cent cut in excise tax that most auto-makers have been passing on to customers. Ford, Honda, Mazda and Nissan have formally introduced lower prices.

"We are passing on the price difference to the customer. Tiida sticker prices will fall Bt40,000 to Bt45,000 and the Teana by Bt65,000 to Bt85,000. Although the excise tax decrease is next year, prices have been cut since the beginning of the motor expo," said Roger Immel, vice president for sales and network development at Siam Nissan.

The first E20 car made available here was the Ford Focus, when it was put in the market in 2005, way before the excise tax was cut.

Honda took the occasion of the expo to launch its new 2008 Accord, which now comes with the option of a 3.5-, 2.4- or 2-litre engine. Another option is a global positioning system (GPS) for navigation, making it the second car here after the Toyota Camry to come with a factory-fitted GPS.

Subaru launched its new-generation Impreza at the Expo, which will now cater more to the mass market with the help of a 1.5-litre engine and price tag of Bt1.1 million.

"The latest Impreza will definitely boost our sales. In Singapore, 100 units of the model were sold on the first day of the car's launch. In Thailand by year's end, we expect to sell 50 units," said Motor Image group CEO Glen Tan.

Suzuki had on display the new Grand Vitara, which now comes in two-wheel drive with a 2-litre engine, as opposed to the four-wheel drive the original vehicle was popular for. The Vitara costs Bt1.05 million.

If production vehicles are not your thing, then look for the concept cars on display.

Toyota had the single-seater i-Unit, although only its body frame was present, because the engineers had nicked the internal components for further research in Japan.

At the Mitsubishi booth was the Mitsubishi Concept cX, which can be considered the next generation of small sport-utility vehicles from Mitsubishi.

To show its commitment to Thailand and wow people with its technology, Hyundai showed off the i-Blue - a fuel-cell vehicle that can travel more than 600 kilometres on a single tank of hydrogen.

"After having left the Thai market for more than a decade, many Thais have a poor impression of Hyundai. But by displaying the i-Blue here, we want people to know we're here to stay and not behind in technology in any way," said Hyundai Thailand marketing manager Vigrant Amatayakul.

So now back to the topic of exotic cars. The most expensive one at the show was the Bugatti Veyron, imported by SEC, Thailand's largest grey-market importer. The Veyron's 8-litre turbocharged engine produces an astounding 1,001 brake horsepower and can propel it from zero to 100kph in a dizzying 2.5 seconds, reaching a top speed of 407kph. In Thailand, it goes for Bt165 million including tax. Japanese exotic-supercar manufacturer Mitsuoka was also at the show, thanks to SL automobiles, which also imports the Spyker). However, be ready to pay a hefty Bt11 million for the Orichi and Bt3.8 million for the Galue.

Raging-bull Lamborghini had two models on display: the Gallardo Spyder and the Gallardo Superleggera. Alongside was the British sports-car manufacturer Lotus with the Exige S. Squeezed between those two brands was Hummer, with its H2 on display. All three makes are imported into Thailand by Niche Cars.

Vijo Varghese

The Nation

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