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Car-scheme takes off amid flood threat

The government yesterday kicked off the first-car scheme amid the chaos of flooding in the central provinces even as car owners in Bangkok are worrying about safe parking due to the threats of flash floods.

The majority of Bangkokians remain on alert for flash flooding due to the swiftly rising water levels, while at the same time a large number of eligible buyers headed to the “First Car Buyer Motor Show” at Bitec, Bang Na.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala cancelled their attendance at the mini motor show as they were busy with the battle against massive flooding in several provinces.

Kijja Chantavorn, a 31-year-old office employee, was one of those to visit the motor show.

He said the four-day show gave buyers eligible under the scheme an opportunity to visit just one place and make comparisons.

“You have lots of choices by visiting just one place,” Kijja, who placed an order for a Mazda2 subcompact, said.

Buyers of the Mazda2 under the programme are eligible for a Bt100,000 tax rebate from the Excise Department.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who skipped the official opening ceremony of the populist scheme yesterday, was represented by Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala.

The event, organised by the Ministry of Finance and the Excise Department, started yesterday and runs until Friday.

Apart from auto companies, the Excise Department, the National Credit Bureau, finance companies and insurance companies are also present to provide advice as well as services.

Organisers expect as many as 250,000 visitors, but many were worried about lower attendance due to the flood situation.

“Taking into account the flooding in the country, it would have been a good idea to postpone this event to a later date,” a senior Thai auto journalist said. “And why didn’t they include Saturday and Sunday when working people have the time to come?” he posed.

This is an opportunity for first-time auto buyers to visit one place and compare makes and models, as well as additional promotions just like in a regular motor show.

There are 11 brands offering passenger cars (1.5-litre maximum engine size) and pickup trucks (single, space and double cab body styles).

Piengjai Kaewsuwan, vice president, government relations for Nissan Motor (Thailand), as well as president of the Thai Automobile Industry Association (TAIA), said the First Car Buyer scheme will help increase customer base as well as purchasing power.

Nissan has just launched its second eco-car – the Almera – which gets a Bt84,000 tax rebate from its Bt559,000 price tag. However, Nissan is not raising its sales targets, she said.

“We’re maintaining the same sales target for 2011 due to the floods, which has affected our parts suppliers as well as our sales in affected regions,” she said.

“But recovery should also be quick. During the year-end period, every manufacturer will be very active and work hard to maximise sales,” Piengjai said.

Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the government is going ahead with its plan to offer excise-tax refund of up to Bt100,000 to first-time car buyers. He said the scheme would promote consumer spending and boost economic growth.

Deputy Finance Minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom estimated 500,000 people would buy their first cars. Eleven carmakers offered passenger cars and pickup trucks, which are covered by the scheme. Eligible buyers must be at least 21 years old and a car bought under the scheme cannot be resold in the first five years.

The scheme has been criticised as a populist measure to woo voters. Car owners in Bangkok are racing for safe parking due to the threat of inundation. Many vehicles in several provinces have been submerged, or damaged due to the flooding.

Source: The Nation

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