BANGKOK, June 19 (Reuters) - China’s top pickup truck maker, Great Wall Motor Co Ltd, plans to roll out sport-utility vehicles (SUV) and pickup trucks from its recently acquired plants in Thailand early next year, an executive said on Friday.
“Even though now the market is not good, it’s a temporary problem,” Great Wall Motor Vice President Steven Wang, told Reuters in an interview.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has dampened demand for autos, with sales in Thailand down 54.12% in May from a year earlier to 40,418 vehicles.
Great Wall took over two General Motors plants in Thailand in February and will produce SUVs and pickup trucks in 2021.
“This project is a long-term plan, Thailand will be our production hub for ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa,” he said, because Thailand had a mature auto parts network.
The Thai government has eased many virus-related restrictions but worries of a second wave has limited international travel.
“We want to finish modifying the assembly line at the beginning of next year and if everything goes smoothly, first production will be ready early next year,” said Wang, who oversees marketing in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
The company will launch two to three models first and focus on building the brand and customer service to gain “reasonable market share” he said, adding they would not focus on volume in the first few years.
Great Wall, however, will face stiff competition from incumbent Japanese auto makers including Nissan and Isuzu who have longed supplied SUVs and pickups in Thailand.
“For us, our advantage to provide is new technology, new design,” he said, adding that younger buyers may prefer their technology offerings. (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng)