Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Used cars hit show

Concept cars and luxury sports vehicles to wow visitors

Published on November 21, 2007

Used cars hit show

The Ferrari F430 Scuderia.

With total automobile sales down 6 per cent this year, makers are hoping the Bangkok International Motor Expo will boost sales.

Sales in the first 10 months of this year totalled 509,186 against 539,840 units in the same period last year. The drop has not been experienced in used cars, and grey-market private importers have seen a rise in sales.

Eton Import, the country's second-largest grey-market importer, said sales were up more than 12 per cent for the first three quarters.

This is due mainly to sales promotions grey-market importers have been offering, thanks to the strong baht.

Used-car dealers, whose sales have risen about 10 per cent, attributed it to fewer people willing to spend money on a new vehicle in an unstable political and economic situation.

Benz Amorn Ratchada, a private used-car dealer, said sales had gone up by 40 per cent.

The overall market trend towards second-hand cars means many auto companies now have their own used-car divisions. At the Bangkok expo, which opens at the Challenger Hall at Muang Thong Thani on December 1, companies will have booths for second-hand cars.

Second-hand divisions attending include BMW Premium Selection, Toyota Sure, Chevy OK, Benz ID1 and Mini Next.

"It is good to know that car manufacturers are considering the used-car market. Customers can now get good quality products with a warranty at a cheaper price. This trend has been increasing in the past few years. We are more than happy to accommodate this at the motor expo.

"As for the total market, we can see that the decline is now only 5-6 per cent. The remaining two months are guaranteed to see high sales. It is possible that the overall market will not see a drop, or just a small one of 2-3 per cent.

"The overall atmosphere is optimistic," Inter Media Consultants chairman Kwanchai Paphatphong said.

This does not mean, however, that there will not be eye-watering concepts and premiers at the expo.

Many sports cars are on display from companies like Subaru, Hyundai, SEC and Niche Cars (Lotus and Lamborghini).

Among the concept cars will be the Mitsubishi cX , the Hyundai i-Blue and the Toyota i-unit, which was displayed at the Bangkok International Motor Show in April.

"With the Hyundai i-Blue concept, we want people to see that Hyundai has come a long way from what it used to be. The company has invested heavily in research and development," said Vigrant Amatayakul, marketing manager of Hyundai Thailand.

"Hyundai has diesel engines as small as 1.2 and 1.5 litres. We are completely aware of our environmental responsibility. The i-Blue is a hydrogen-powered exercise in being green and practical at the same time. It uses Hyundai's third-generation hydrogen fuel cell."

Another concept car on display is the Mitsubishi cX. The cX is a compact car that creates a new sport-utility-hatchback crossover category. The design gives the exterior a purposeful and functional form using a dynamic wedge shape and large tires.

The concept car uses a new high-output, high-efficiency 1.8-litre, clean diesel engine, featuring a variable geometry turbocharger for optimum boost control and a diesel oxidation catalyst with a diesel particulate filter in the exhaust system for compliance with the Euro-5 emission standards. The power unit is mated to Mitsubishi's new Twin Clutch Sport Shift Transmission.

Salivating over the concepts that you will never drive? Then consider the Subaru Impreza, which was launched earlier this month and will be on display with its full range at the expo.

The new Impreza, which now comes in hatchback form, is sleeker and more modern looking when compared with the outgoing model, which was criticised for uninspiring design. On display will be the Impreza 1.5R and the 2.5 WRX versions. The STI version, which has already been launched in Japan, will make it to Thailand in next year's first quarter.

SEC, a grey-market importer, will display the mouth-watering Ferrari F430 Scuderia. Other importers like Niche Cars Thailand will display the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera and the Lotus Exige S British GT version, a limited-edition vehicle of which only 25 will be produced worldwide.

If you're looking for something saner, then consider Honda, which will have the new Accord. The version appeals to more executive buyers and is bigger than all its competition. The vehicle is likely to be available in both the 2- and 2.4-litre versions. Whether the 3.5-litre version will be imported to compete with the Toyota Camry 3.5 is something we will have to wait and see.

Suzuki will have the new Grand Vitara on display, which will start sales next year. The Vitara comes in a 2-litre version and is expected to cost between Bt1 million and Bt1.5 million. The versions imported to Thailand, though, will be two-wheel drive.

Bored with the usual brands in Thailand? Then turn to Malaysia's Proton. It will display the Savvy, priced at Bt399,000, along with three other models that will be launched at the expo.

The expo will open its doors on November 30. More than 3.3 million tickets are being given away.

Vijo Varghese

The Nation

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