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Thai-Chinese alliance to build trucks cheaper than Japanese rivals

CP and Foton aim for No.3 in commercial vehicle market

A joint venture between Thailand's CP and China's Foton has introduced a line of trucks and buses for the Thai market. (Photo by Marimi Kishimoto)

BANGKOK -- Thailand's biggest conglomerate CP Group and China's Beiqi Foton Motor have unveiled a lineup of commercial vehicles for sale through a joint venture in a bid to quickly establish a foothold in the Thai auto market.

Their joint venture, CP Foton, aims to sell 450 vehicles before the end of the year. Although the prices remain under wraps, the venture said the new trucks and buses will be 10-15% more affordable than their Japanese-brand rivals.

The goal is to attain third place in market share in three to five years. Toyota Motor holds the top share in commercial vehicles sold in Thailand at 35%, followed by Isuzu Motors at 28%. For CP Foton to attain its goal, it would have to surpass Ford Motor's 8% share.

"CP knows Thailand's market inside and out," said Thanakorn Seriburi, senior vice chairman of CP Group.

The partners also revealed during Tuesday's media event plans to build an assembly plant in Thailand in two to three years. The factory would export vehicles throughout the region.

"We want to make Thailand the hub of Southeast Asia," said Dai Hong Kai, president of Foton's Asia-Pacific region.

Foton and CP signed an agreement to create a Thai joint venture during Beijing's Belt and Road forum in April last year. The tie-up now imports vehicles made in China.

CP, short for Charoen Pokphand, operates food-processing plants and also manages the chain of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Thailand. Thanakorn said the group plans to use trucks bearing the CP Foton brand in its distribution operations.

In 2012, CP formed a joint venture with Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, which in 2014 started to assemble vehicles for the British MG brand acquired by SAIC. MG held a 2.6% market share in Thailand last year.

Beiqi Foton Motor is a unit of BAIC Group.

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