Thailand will soon become number one in South East Asia

Singapore. Thailand's importance as southeast Asia's center for the automotive industry is growing. But at the same time Toyota Thailand boss Ryoichi Sasaki warned that new free-trade treaties with Australia and India might jeopardize the Thai automobile and component production industry.

The Thai industry association expects the country's car export business to increase by 26 percent to approximately 228,000 vehicles this year.

Due to low interest rates and an expected economic growth of 5 percent, car sales in Thailand are rose by 36 percent to more than 246,000 vehicles in the first half of 2003. This equates to annual sales of more than half a million units.

Thailand might therefore become the southeast Asia's No.1 car market leader in 2003, putting Malaysia in second place.

According to Aishah Ahmad, president of the Malaysian automobile association MAA, Malaysia expects to sell 420,000 cars in 2003. The total was 435,000 in 2002.