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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai auto exports plunge 42.11 percent

Thai auto exports plunge 42.11 percent

Weak auto demand has hit Thai vehicle production, with some factories stopping operations

BANGKOK - Thai auto exports fell 42.11 percent in December from the same period a year ago due to weak demand, particularly from across Asia and Australia, an industry group said Wednesday.

Thailand exported vehicles worth 17.78 billion baht (US$508 million) last December, down 42.11 percent from the same period the previous year, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said.

"Our shipments in December dropped because of declining demand in every region, especially Asia and Australia," FTI spokesman Surapong Paisitpatanapong told AFP.

Thailand last month exported 43,273 vehicles, down 36.65 percent from a year earlier, and the lowest monthly export figure since May 2008, Surapong said.

It also recorded its lowest overall production rates since 2005, he said.

Thailand's total auto production, including the domestic market, slowed to 84,602 units last month, down 19.45 percent from the same period a year earlier.

"We produce on average more than 90,000 units per month," Surapong said.

But Thailand's exports were up over the year, with 776,140 vehicles sold for export in 2008, up 12.47 percent from 2007 and worth a total of 563.53 billion baht, the group said.

Surapong said projections for the coming year had fallen.

This year auto export production is likely to fall 24.49 percent, the group said, totalling 592,000 vehicles in 2009, down from 784,000 vehicles last year.

"A slowdown in the global economy has affected our projections," Surapong said.

Thailand has no national automaker, but has tried to position itself as the "Detroit of the East" and has attracted many foreign companies to become an important regional auto production centre.

But the global economic slowdown has led some of the country's biggest automobile assembly plants to suspend operations.  

In January, Toyota stalled its planned diesel engine factory that was announced last June, which would have created 700 local jobs.

AFP WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GEORGE MCLEOD

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