A New Home - New Discoveries
The IMPACT Exhibition Center in Muangthong Thani was the appropriate setting for this year's Bangkok International Motor Show. Spread out specifically at the massive 60,000 square meter Challenger Hall, the automotive industry leaders of the world gathered together to feature the latest and freshest innovations that the ASEAN market can expect. Highlighting this year's show are major debuts from Chevrolet, Ford and Honda, as well as the 125th Anniversary presentation of Mercedes-Benz.
Traffic jams and jam-packed parking
The event saw an overwhelming turnout as evidenced by the heavy traffic and crammed parking lots just on the first public day. This year, organizers are expecting to attract 1.9 million visitors. With the pull of vehicle debuts alongside the buzz of a new venue, the projection is likely to come through.
A significant number of spectators however does not ensure vehicle bookings this year, as buyers are expected to be held back by high fuel prices and further model releases later in the year, like the Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Ranger which both debuted at the show.
Chevrolet Colorado Show Truck World Debut
A notable display by Chevrolet involved heritage trucks shipped straight from its museum in Detroit, a first time in Chevy history. The 1926 Chevrolet Superior Series X, 1956 Chevrolet 3100-series Stepside 1/2 -ton pickup and a 1960 Chevrolet pickup that took part in the 16,100km 2005 "Old Way Expedition", represented a century of all-American truck craftsmanship.
Chevy's presentation highlight was the global debut of the "Colorado Show Truck", expected to hit showrooms later in the year. (related article link)
Acccording to Martin Apfel, President of GM SEA Operations, GM Thailand, and Chevrolet Thailand, as the world's largest market for midsize pickups, Thailand is the perfect location for the unveiling of the new Colorado.
Ford Ranger ASEAN debut
Another car debut was the unveiling of the new Ford Ranger for the ASEAN market. Set to compete in the highly competitive one-ton pickup track segment, the new Ranger is developed from ground up and demonstrates the One Ford program of the Blue Oval brand.
Among the new features of the truck are new powerplants to include a 2.5-liter Duratec gasoline engine, 2.2-liter Duratorq TDCI engine and 3.2-liter Duratorq five-cylinder TDCI engine with a 200 PS power output and 470 Nm of torque.
The 2012 Ford Ranger will be sold later in the year.
Honda Brio World Debut
Just months after revealing the prototype last year in Thailand, Japanese automaker Honda unveiled the production model of its Brio subcompact to the public. The a-segment car qualifies for the Thai eco-car program which covers vehicles with engine displacement of up to 1.3-liters and fuel economy of 20 kilometers per liter and CO2 emissions of 120g/km or less. The Brio is powered by a 90-horsepower 1.2-liter i-VTEC engine with 20 kilometers per liter fuel consumption.
Starting price for the new eco-car is set at 399,000 baht.
Mercedes-Benz 125th Anniversary
Mercedes-Benz marked its 125th Anniversary at the show with an augmented reality production. Given by Prof. Dr. Alexander Paufler, President & CEO of Mercedes-Benz Thailand, the presentation gave audiences a walkthrough of the silver star's technological innovations in the last century. On display was the world's first automobile, the "Benz Patent Motor Car".
Emphasizing the brand's continuing commitment for advancement, the pavilion design gave a first glimpse of the new, edgy look of Mercedes-Benz Asia.
Also debuted at the show were the new SLK roadster and the new CLS.
Japanese brands dominated the concept cars segment. Leading the pack is Mitsubishi with the Concept E, which had its world premier recently in Geneva. Expected to be Mitsubishi's answer to a sub-compact car demand in the Thai eco-car market, it is also rumored to be the next generation Mitsubishi Colt.
Nissan displayed the Leaf electric vehicle, which is unlikely to sell in Bangkok given the city's heavy traffic condition. Suzuki prepares its eco-car entry with the Swift Range Extender. Toyota displayed their "Future Toyota" concepts: the FT-EV II and FT-86, while Korean carmaker Kia displayed the new Optima Hybrid which is planned to hedge against the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Thai-market debuts were held for the BMW 6 Series, X3, MINI Countryman, Proton Lekir, Kia Picanto, Hyundai Sonata Sport; Thailand-built new-generation Mazda3, Volvo V50, and the Lexus CT200h.
Premium and Tuner Brands
The AAS Group had arguably one of the most populated pavilions with the display of the new Bentley Mulsanne and Continental Supersports, Porsche 911 GT3 RS among other models of the Stuttgart based carmaker, and the Jaguar XJ and XF. Some of the top tuner brand names 9ff, Brabrus, MTM, Weismann were also present showcasing their performance enhanced variants and special vehicles.
KTM, Lotus, and Morgan featured track prepped cars. Lotus set the stage with an Evora GT4 racecar highlighting its stand.
Points of Interest
Chinese carmaker Chery came out with its new Toyota Hiace-inspired (read copied) Bid-D van and a turbocharged version of its A1 subcompact in hopes to attract the budget tuner market. Thai commercial vehicle custom maker Thairung displayed a mini Hummer inspired vehicle and an Isuzu D-Max based limo. Popular for its unconventional bordering on hideous creations, Mitsuoka also displayed some of its models. Toyota displayed a handicapped friendly version of its Alphard van and a race prepped Corolla Altis that competes in the Thailand Super Car Series. Determined to make a comeback, Korean carmaker Ssangyong came out with the new Korando compact SUV.
Old is Gold
The Vintage and Classic Cars Display was highlighted by a cream colored Mercedes-Benz 190SL roadster which was sold alongside the legendary 300SL Gullwing in the mid 50's to early 60's.
Parts and Accessories
Similar to the Philippine market, Thais also love to tinker with their cars. Accessories and parts suppliers represented the aftermarket industry. Products ranged from car audio, window films, detailing products to performance enhancing parts.
Models and more
The motor show would not be complete without the lovely ladies that adorn the cars in each manufacturer's pavilion and booths.
The motor show awarded the Thailand Car of the Year. Other side events include a car audio competition, off-road competition, car club meets, and daily concerts.
The Bangkok International Motor Show hopes to expand its borders more in the coming years as it integrates more auto parts and services under its umbrella to showcase what Thailand has to offer to the automotive world.