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Bangkok International Motor Show: Unabated Pickup-Power in Thailand.

From Laszlo Gog: It is no secret that pickup trucks are by far the most popular choice of four-wheeled transport in Thailand. The kingdom last year topped the United States to become the world's largest producer of one-ton pickup trucks, with output rising to 900,000 units thanks to soaring global demand.

Toyota and Isuzu control 80 per cent of this market in Thailand. It has no domestic automakers but is a major production and export base for Japan's auto giants Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, as well as America's General Motors and Ford.

And if the recent 31st "Bangkok International Motor Show" is any indicator, the pickup truck segment of the market might stay active despite the current gloomy outlook for auto sales. The Americans may have had a head start in the pickup segment some 80 years ago when the single-cab replaced the horse and carriage and became the workhorse of the rural community and kept it to themselves, but the Japanese saw a broader picture and capatilised on it.

Other carmakers are now seriously looking for a bigger share of this market. American auto giant General Motors had on display at the motor show a delightful "shop on wheels". It was built on the platform of their new Colorado C-Cab. An example of the multi-functional nature of the vehicle. According to Martin Apfel, GM's president of South East Asia operations, these pickups with their car-like features and comfort and multi-purpose function could become the life-style vehicle of the future.

And it does not cost an arm and a leg. Faced with the prospect of fuel price increases, a lot of pickup truck owners are re-evaluating what their real needs are. Smaller, less thirsty models are suddenly an acceptable alternative to the heavyweights.

This may seem to be obvious good news for the compact 2010 Chevrolet Colorado. Their four- and five-cylinder engines continue to provide better fuel economy while the massive V8 5.3-litre alternative with 300 horsepower makes the Colorado one of the quickest small pickups around. While eying the local market GM has also plans to export these vehicles to Europe from Thailand.

Toyota the leader in this segment is putting its trust once again in the Hilux model to maintain its competitive edge. The 2010 Toyota Hilux comes with a revised engine and an improved equipment list. Powered by the 2.5 D-4D engine, the 2010 Toyota Hilux offers now a 20 per cent increase in power and more torque, with the figures rising to 142hp, instead of 118 hp, and 343Nm of torque at 2,000rpm.

The extra power of the 2010 Toyota Hilux comes through the introduction of a new high-output turbocharger and new fuel injectors. The 2010 Toyota Hilux has now better throttle response and to handle the extra horses, it also has upgraded pistons. The 2010 Toyota Hilux is equipped with five-speed manual gearbox and comes in three body styles, Single Cab, Extra Cab and Double Cab. The top of the range 2010 Toyota Hilux, the Invincible, now comes with Leather upholstery and satellite navigation with Bluetooth.

Isuzu which shares 80 per cent of the pickup market here with Toyota is moving its 'main engineering activity' for the next generation of pickup trucks to Thailand. Isuzu started local production of pickup trucks in Thailand in 1974 with total sales about to hit the two million mark. The D-Max which originated in Thailand has established itself among the favourites worldwide and a remodelled version continues into 2010.

Isuzu’s other highlight was the special version of MU7, named ‘Groove’, featuring sporty design and special accessories, like entertainment system comprising TV tuner, DVD player and Kenwood loudspeakers, built-in Bluetooth connection, and not to be missed i-GENii navigation system with Thai menu.

Mitsubishi Motors Thailand introduced the Triton CNG with a new Bi-Fuel system, which is compatible with 2 types of fuel: benzene up to Gasohol E20 and CNG to be a choice for customers who are looking for a more economical pickup. The new model is available in Single cab and Mega cab.

This is the first time in Thai market that a manufacturer has equipped Bi-Fuel system in benzene pick up truck under company standard. Based from benzene series, Mitsubishi Triton CNG Bi-Fuel is powered by 2.4 MPI engine, pumping out the maximum output of 128 horsepower at 5,250 r-pm and maximum torque of 184 Nm at 4,000 rpm. Bi-Fuel system is easy to operate with one touch switch for changing between gasoline and CNG system.

Incorporated in this switch is a series of light indicators which also show the level of gas left in the tank. With intelligence ECU that will analyze and control the engine’s fuel and gas injection follow engine torque, Triton CNG provides fuel efficiency and smooth running when switch from gasoline to gas and gas to gasoline. The CNG tank is located on cargo bed, covered with a special designed bed liner that not only provides safety but also easy to use and maintenance while the cabin provide a large space.

Among the new SUV models BMW launched X1 Sport Activity Vehicle and Hyundai presented the new Tucson. The smallest BMW SUV is going to the market with a 2.0 liter ‘Advanced Diesel’ engine producing 177 horsepower. Hyundai’s compact SUV comes with a 166hp 2.0 liter DOHC engine and 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift. Both two and all-wheel drive versions are offered for the Thai market, and company plans to sell 200 units this year.

With Thailand's consumer confidence at a five-year low and new political uncertainties arising due to political unrest, the auto industry is anything but upbeat about car demand. But, despite that there seems to be no lack of optimism in the Thai auto industry. International and local support for the motor show was overwhelming, and a carnival atmosphere to boot.

A total of 26 auto brands and 440 vehicles took part in the show this year with several of the manufacturers starting up new assembly lines of increasing their existing manufacturing facility.

According to Dr Prachin Eamlumnow, the chairman of the organising committee, this year's show has the approval of the OICA (Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobile), the governing body for international auto shows, and is included in OICA's calendar of international motor shows. "This means that the standard of the exhibits and organisation carries the same global status as Frankfurt and Tokyo," he said. And going by the future plans of the major auto manufacturers, Thailand is well on its way to achieving Dr Prachin's objective of establishing the kingdom as the "Detroit of Southeast Asia".

One of the delightful touches of the Bangkok Motor show was the show girls who gave the exhibits a human touch. At times you tend to forget that it's a motor show and not a beauty contest by the way the cameras were focused on the girls as much as the exhibits.

But one unwritten rule holds: you can see, but cannot touch and nobody has run amok, so far, at the sight of too much bare flesh. It also reminds us of the Maurice Chevalier song Thank Heaven for Little Girls for they grow up in the most delightful way!

But, going by motoring terms they seem to come out of the same assembly line, like they are moulded around the same chassis, with one colour option... pearly white and about the same kerb weight. The only difference being height, which could be classified as long or short wheel base. In any case, it's politically correct in Thailand... beauty is to be admired and cherished in any form. Cheers to that!

2010/05/02 | 11:12 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/GOG

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