ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Malaysia’s Proton launching CNG-powered Persona in Thailand
Phranakorn Auto Sales, the distributor for Proton cars in Thailand, will launch the new CNG-powered Proton Persona in Bangkok Tuesday, reported Malaysia ational nerws agency Bernama.
It will be the fourth Proton model entering the kingdom since Proton made its debut here at the end of last year with the Savvy, Gen-2 and Satria Neo models.
A Phranakorn executive said this would be the first Persona model to be fitted with pre-installed compressed natural gas (CNG) kits and was likely to attract car buyers looking for energy-saving models due to the current high oil price.
The Persona model, a winner of the Frost and Sullivan 2008 Best Model of the Year, has received bookings of more than 54,000 units to-date in Malaysia since its launch in August 2007.
Proton made its entry into the Japanese-dominated Thai market at the end of 2007, bringing in the three models, taking advantage of the low five percent import duty imposed under the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) agreement.
Currently, the Savvy is Proton's most popular model in Thailand, accounting for about 50 percent of all sales, followed by the Gen-2 with 30 percent and the rest by Neo.
Proton has increased its sales target in Thailand from 2,000 units to 5,000 units for 2008, with the first-quarter sales reaching 1,500 units.
But since March, Savvy has been getting fierce competition from another Malaysian make, the Naza Forza, which entered the market with a price tag of 349,000 baht, almost 50,000 baht lower than the Savvy.
In a related report, Thai News Agency quoted a Thai research house as predicting an unfavourable year for Thai vehicle exports in 2009 due to global economic slowdown.
Kasikorn Research Center, a research arm of Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank projected the country's vehicle exports would grow around 8 percent in terms of volume next year compared with 14 percent expected for this year. The export value is forecast to expand about 9.9 percent this year versus the 17 percent earlier projected for this year.
The expected decline in exports might dampen the government's ambition to boost annual vehicle production to 2 million units in 2011 under the second-phase auto industry master plan (2007-2011).