The Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor remains firm on its plan to produce a hybrid car in Thailand despite some technical snags as it hopes to meet rising global demand for environmentally friendly vehicles. Mitsuhiro Sonoda, the president of Toyota Motor Thailand, said the hybrid car and small passenger vehicles, including the so-called eco-cars, were part of Toyota’s strategy to meet global environmental standards and retain its global competitiveness.
”Under Toyota’s ecology product approach, we intend to shift our focus from diesel- or gasoline-based vehicles to hybrid cars, the model set to be built in Thailand,” Mr Sonoda said yesterday at a seminar on enhancing the competitiveness of Thai companies.
”Despite the slow progress, we want to have the hybrid car produced in Thailand and we want to make it on a scale to compete in the global market.”
He said 15 Toyota Prius hybrid cars were undergoing environmental and technical tests in Thailand. These would take six months, he said, and Toyota Motor Thailand would send the results to its headquarters in Japan.
Mr Sonoda declined to give any specific timeframe for local production of the hybrid model in Thailand, saying only that technical problems had been found from the tests.
Mr Sonoda said Toyota would also further strengthen the competitiveness of its pickup trucks, which account for 60-70% of its production in Thailand, as well as smaller-sized vehicles. ”This is Toyota’s development strategy for the future that complies with the Thai government’s guidance,” he said.
The government has imposed strict requirements under its fuel-efficient eco-car scheme, and Toyota has stepped up its effort to meet those requirements.
”The restriction of the eco-car is the right strategy introduced by the Thai government to make the model that will have a high standard at an affordable price,” said Mr Sonoda.
Toyota’s five-billion-baht eco-car project is scheduled to receive approval from the Board of Investment next week. The project requires firms to roll out 100,000 units of the model within five years of operations.
”We want to see this happen in the next three to five years,” he said, declining to say exactly when the first eco-car unit would be rolled out in Thailand.
Mr Sonoda said Toyota had projected 700,000 vehicles would be sold in Thailand this year. Toyota hopes to produce its maximum capacity of 550,000 units this year, up from 502,000 last year.
”We are approaching the maximum capacity and would closely monitor the market curve, which had declined over the last two years. Then we will make a decision on future production growth,” he said.