ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai auto program brings protests
Tata Motor Thailand has lodged a complaint with the Indian ambassador in Bangkok against Thailand's first-time car buyer programme, saying it discriminates against its imported vehicles.
Industry sources said the importers had to pursue their case after Finance Ministry officials brushed off their concerns about the "impractical and unfair nature" of the scheme at a meeting with leasing and automotive firms.
Tata said the government's tax-rebate programme could affect sales of a pickup truck model it now markets in Thailand and the Nano car that the company planned to import from India this year.
"Tata does not object to the programme but the implementation will create unfair trade competition as only locally built vehicles are entitled for the tax rebate which is as high as 100,000 baht," said a senior executive.
The government claims the rebates were not intended to benefit any particular car companies since they still paid the full tax. But Tata says consumers could clearly see the differences in prices between locally built models that will qualify for rebates and imports that do not benefit from the programme.
Tata currently markets its Super Ace cab-over pickup truck imported from India in Thailand. Like all basic pickups, it carries an excise tax of 3%. It has a 1.4-litre engine and retails for 349,000 baht but the price might not be competitive against other pickups if it does not qualify for the tax rebate.
If Thailand insisted on covering only locally built vehicles, Tata would scrap Nano imports as the product would be not competitive, said the executive.
Phranakorn Auto Sales Co, the importer of Proton cars from Malaysia, stands to suffer the most as its cars have already entered the market.
Thai Chery Yarnyon Co distributes small Chery cars from China. They too have engines of less than 1,500cc and cost less than 1 million baht.
Hyundai Motor (Thailand) might also review its imports of the I-10 subcompact from Korea. Executives met the Korean ambassador on Thursday to ask for help in pressing the company's case.
Srirat Rastapana, head of the Trade Negotiations Department, insisted the first-car programme does not contravene WTO regulations.
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