January 26, 2017 01:00 By KINGSLEY WIJAYASINHA THE NATION
GERMAN LUXURY-CAR powerhouses Mercedes-Benz and BMW are set to face stronger competition this year as their compatriot Audi has appointed a new local distributor.
Grisnagorn Sawettanan, chief executive of Meister Technik Co, said yesterday that the company had signed an open contract with Audi last October to become the official importer and distributor for Audi products in Thailand.
Meister Technik, which also takes on the name “Audi Thailand”, has tycoon Krisda Lamsam as its major shareholder.
Krisda was one of the three candidates who pitched for the new Audi distributorship in Germany last year.
“We were chosen because of our focus on after-sales operations and our customer-centric policy,” Grisnagorn said.
Audi has not fared well in the Thai market, with just 115 registrations last year, while Mercedes-Benz and BMW are the leaders, with sales of more than 11,000 and 7,000 units respectively.
The Thai luxury-car market was estimated at 22,000 units in 2016, down from 25,000 a year earlier.
However, in its first year, the new Audi network will not be aiming to compete against its two main rivals, but rather to ensure a smooth transition between the old and new distributorships.
“Right now we want to concentrate on Audi fans and serve as another choice in the luxury market,” Grisnagorn said.
“Both Meister Technik and German Motor Works Co [former distributor belonging to Yontrakit Group] will service Audi vehicles during the transition.
This is to ensure that existing Audi customers will not suffer from a lack of service.”
Last March, German Motor Works opened a Bt100-million Audi showroom in Bangkok. The facility was called Audi Centre Bangkok and was built according to the “Audi Terminal” design concept.
Meister Technik’s first showroom will be opened on New Phetchaburi Road in Bangkok in March, when official sales will also start.
“We plan to offer a very wide range of Audi products in Thailand starting from more affordable entry-level models to more exclusive models such as Quattro [all-wheel-drive] and plug-in hybrid models,” Grisnagorn said.
Dealer recruitment will commence in the fourth quarter of this year for both Bangkok and upcountry areas.
A second facility will be opened at the end of the year featuring the Audi “Lighthouse” brand terminal, which will also serve as Audi Thailand headquarters. The company has not considered local assembly, but CKD (completely knocked down) production is needed if Audi plans to grow sales significantly and compete more effectively against rivals, he said.
“I am confident in our readiness and capabilities in building the Audi brand in the Thai market.
“We have laid down the foundation and preparations through proper planning, and we have put together a highly experienced team to drive the brand to success along with full support from Audi AG,” said Grisnagorn, who was previously a marketing executive at Mercedes-Benz (Thailand).
“The automobile market in Thailand still has room for growth, particularly in the luxury segment, where there is growing product variety with more affordable pricing,” he added.