Bangkok International Auto Show – the Detroit of the East under the spotlight
The presence of Alan Mullaly, the head of Ford Motor Company at the opening day of the Bangkok International Auto Show was no coincidence – the New York Motor Show was on at the same time. Last year Thailand produced 2.45 million cars, (up 68% on 2011), sold 1.43 million locally (up 80%), and moved into the top 10 auto producing countries in the world. Thailand has around 18 vehicles per 100 people – America has 76.
Many of the world's car companies have production facilities in Thailand, so for many, it is home ground in a market they understand particularly well.
Most of the technology-introducing, luxury-market-testing big buck show cars had been shown first in Beijing, Paris, Frankfurt and Detroit, but the mere fact that so many of those important show cars made it to Bangkok while the New York Show was running is quite astonishing.
The reason the show might be lower on the radar of western car enthusiasts is that different values drive the market in Asia, and hence the major car releases at this Asian-centric show are cars built specifically for nearer markets with more basic needs than the luxury markets in countries with much higher per capita income.
Thailand and its neighbors have massive populations that don't already have cars – in addition to Thailand's 18 cars per 100 people, Malaysia has 39 cars per 100 people, China has eight, Indonesia has six, Philippines has three, India, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar have less than two cars per 100 people.
The Asian market is extremely practical at its core – it wants vehicles that can do a job cost-effectively and some of the exhibitors at the show were displaying machinery that is very cheap and very practical.