If Thailand wants to produce 2 million vehicles annually by 2010, it can not rely solely on the 1-ton pickup truck to achieve its goal,Automobile (Thailand) Co. Ltd. President Hiroshi Toda says.
"The 1-ton pickup truck can't do it alone," Toda tells the Bangkok Post. "It needs a partner, not a sidekick, but a partner, with a status worthy of a champion product to drive automobile sales in both domestic and export markets."
Toda says that partner most likely should be an A-segment passenger car that delivers fuel consumption of at least 47 mpg (5 L/100 km) using E20 fuel (a mixture of 20% ethanol and 80% gasoline). In short, a vehicle that meets the same specifications called for in Thailand's now-defunct "Best Little EcoCar Project."
"I am saying the other product could be the Eco or small car," Toda says. "The government should seriously consider this option for the future. The future of Thailand lies in smaller cars that are more fuel efficient."
The Thai government dropped its EcoCar project a year ago, saying market forces would determine its future. The plan was to build a fuel-efficient car to complement Thailand's success as a maker of 1-ton pickup trucks.
Officially, the government ended its support for the project because it did not fit with its efforts to reduce the use of cars under the country's energy conservation campaign. It also said there was a lack of local demand for the small cars proposed for the project and promoting sales of the cars would have conflicted with the country's campaign to reduce oil consumption.
Motor Thailand Co. and Motor Co. Ltd. opposed the project because it would have set car-size specifications that both auto makers said were impractical. The EcoCar specifications called for a qualifying vehicle to be 11.8 ft. (3.6 m) long and 5.3 ft. (1.6 m) wide.
Last November, the Thai government revised its 2010 vehicle-production target from 1.8 million units to 2 million.
Thailand says it is sticking to its sales target of 71,000 units this year but has lowered its sales forecast for the entire Thai market to 720,000-725,000 total vehicles from 760,000.