Report - Thailand Motor Expo 2005
The 2005 Thailand Motor Expo kicked off on December 1, and runs until the 12th. On Friday I made my way to IMPACT Muang Thong Thani with hopes of an enjoyable day. I made use of the free shuttle bus service from Mo Chit BTS station which was easy and painless, although on the bus going to the event the driver insisted on subjecting us to very loud..... music, I suppose you would call it that.
I made use of a voucher from a recent UBC magazine to gain free access to the show, so apart from the journey to Mo Chit Station the event didn't cost me anything. And it's a good thing to because it was a disappointing experience.
Before I give you the reasons for my disappointment it might be fair to the event if I start by outlining my expectations. After all, the show would be very entertaining for someone who simply wanted to see very pretty Thai ladies standing around smiling sweetly. Indeed it seemed to me that many attendees of the show went for that very purpose. Their cameras never focused on a car the whole time!
While I am not offended in the least by the sight of a beautiful lady, my motivation for making the effort of going to the expo was to feast my eyes on beauties of the 4-wheeled variety. In that respect the expo doesn't provide the goods.
The main passenger car hall displaying "new cars" had very little in the way of new machinery. Adjoining it is a rather cluttered hall filled mostly with accessory and after-market parts. There were a few surprises in there however if you take the time to explore.
Of the passenger car makers Toyota and Honda attracted the most attention. Toyota had their full range of cars on display, but no sign of any future vehicles. I had hoped to get a first hand look at the new Yaris due in Thailand in 2006, but unfortunately no sign of the Jazz beater at this show.
Honda meanwhile are making a big song and dance about the new Civic, and their floor space has a generous scattering of the new car. I didn't count but from memory there were at least 7 or 8 Civics on display, along with one or two examples of each other model. Even with so many Civics at the show it was difficult to get a close look and I had to queue to get a seat inside one of them! The Accord on show is unchanged from the Bangkok International Motor show earlier this year, although a face-lifted version is rumored to be imminent.
Ford had arguably the most attractions. The five door version of the Focus, the 4-Trac concept, and even a GT. The GT was on display to try and improve the brand image in Thailand to drive up sales of the Focus, which we are supposed to see as being "cool" by association with it's sports car sibling. And the GT is a very cool car, but the Focus will need more than a muscle bound big brother to fend off the Civic.
I haven't driven the new Civic or the Focus, but having sat in each and reviewed the figures and read reviews on each car, I think Ford will have a very tough job winning sales from Honda in this segment. Ford do have their fans, and there are many in Thailand who think highly of American and European brands. Ford are touting the Focus as a European car, claiming German engineering, although the car is produced in the Philippines.
The Civic is the 8th incarnation of the popular family car, and it is an impressive machine. I had my doubts about the external appearance at first, but in the metal it looks better. I've since seen a few on the road and it looks good. But it is in the cabin that things are impressive. The quality of the finish internally, in my opinion, shows up the age of the Accord. The quality of the switches and controls is very high. In the mean time the 1.8 liter 140 hp, and 2.0 liter 155 hp engines are ahead of the competition. The 1.8 is claimed to have performance to rival 2.0 liter engines from competitors, while still providing fuel consumption closer to that of a 1.5 liter motor.
Honda are confident that this civic will boost it's share of the market from 21% up to 30%, and from first impressions of the car I would share their confidence, assuming it drives as well as it looks.
Back at Ford the 4-Trac is a pretty cool looking truck. It has a strong "rescue vehicle" theme to it, with cable winches front and rear. Hopefully the 2006 Ranger will take a lot from this concept.
Finally the Ford Territory was also on show on a look-but-don't-touch basis. It looks a bit like the awkward big brother of the better-looking Escape. The Territory is built in Australia and will come to Thailand under a free-traid agreement at an expected cost of around 2 million baht.