BANGKOK – Toyota is in a bullish mood about the market here, both for the rest of the year and longer term.

The Japanese auto maker forecasts industry sales at 1.2 million vehicles this year, up 50% from flood-ravaged 2011. The market is up 40.4% so far this year, while Toyota deliveries rose 54.3% through June.

Toyota Motor Thailand President Kyoichi Tanada says the growth is attributable to government policies, increased capacity and a return to normal demand. He predicts 2012 will see the market reach a “record high.”

This year’s volume will be driven by the government’s First Time Buyer scheme, Wichien Emprasertsuk, TMT executive vice president-marketing and administration, says, attributing nearly 50% of sales to the program that provides a tax break to consumers purchasing their first vehicles.

TMT’s key B-segment Yaris and Vios models have proved hits with first-time buyers, and half of their current output is being absorbed by the incentive scheme. That success is delaying a refresh of the Vios, as Toyota holds onto that trump card in case the scheme is wrapped up at the end of this year.

TMT is more cautious about 2013, believing some sales initially expected for next year already have been pulled into 2012 due to the tax incentive and general post-flood market rebound.

Next year’s sales picture will depend on whether the government’s initiative to draw new customers to vehicle showrooms and stimulate production is continued, Emprasertsuk says.

“If the government doesn't extend the scheme, we can't increase sales (in 2013).”

Next year, Toyota will introduce its own eco-car in the guise of the third-generation Yaris. It will be the final member of the Thai eco-car program, following the rollout of the Nissan March, Suzuki Swift, Honda Brio and Mitsubishi Mirage.

The overall picture is steadily returning to normal for Toyota in the post-flood landscape. Orders for all of its models now are backlogged by only three to four months, except the Fortuner SUV, which has a waiting list of five to six months.

An increase in capacity has helped reduce the delivery lag, which is expected to shorten further as the year winds down.

“We expect back orders to become normal by the end of the year,” Emprasertsuk says, declining to two to three months’ backlog by August and to a 1-month wait by December.

TMT also confirms its capacity-expansion plans are firmly on track. Its Thai Auto Works project is running well and the facility is under the process of being fully renovated, Emprasertsuk says, adding the plant should open by year’s end.

Also progressing on schedule is the second Gateway plant, where production capacity now is targeted at 80,000 units annually, up slightly from 70,000-75,000 in initial planning.

“This factory will produce new models not seen in Thailand before,” Emprasertsuk confirms. First off the line will be the new Yaris.

Meanwhile, completely built-up exports are growing. The target is 405,000 vehicles this year, 61% ahead of 2011, part of a long-term strategy to increase Thailand’s role in Toyota’s global picture. The driver is the locally built Hilux pickup, which goes to 130 countries.

The auto maker wants to step up exports to 500,000 units, then 600,000 and 700,000, Emprasertsuk says, adding, “We have a plan to be responsible to customers around the world.”

Tanada says TMT capacity overall will approach 900,000 units this year. “Two years ago, it was 635,000 units, (and) last year with the floods it was 550,000.”