The 34th Bangkok International Motor Show, organized by Grand Prix International Co. Ltd., opened last week with the theme “Street of Automotive Fashion.” The growing importance of the ASEAN region was underscored by the presence of Alan Mullaly, the CEO of Ford Motor Company, during the opening ceremonies. Two million people are expected to attend the auto show during the 12 days that it is open to the public and perhaps as many as 60,000 vehicles will be sold at the event.
Two auto shows are held in Bangkok annually, the Motor Show from the end of March through early April and the Thailand International Motor Expo in early December. Since 2011, both events have been held at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, a multi-use facility in Nonthaburi, a suburb north of Bangkok. Muang Thong Thani means Golden City in Thai. In the late 1990s, the Thai government built three venues in the Bangkok area, including the 12,000 seat IMPACT Arena, to host the 13th Asian Games in 1998. In the past year, Chicago, Elton John, Santana, and Sting have all performed concerts in this arena; the Disney on Ice show was also held there last October.
The complex expanded dramatically in the succeeding years and it now has over 1.5 million square feet in floorspace. In 1999, the IMPACT Exhibition Center opened and in 2003 it was expanded to one-half million square feet; in 2000, the 320,000 square foot Convention Center debuted; and in 2006, Challenger Hall, a column-free, 650,000 square foot space and home to the auto shows, was added. To accommodate visitors, the 400 room Novotel IMPACT hotel was built in 2011.
I went to Challenger Hall on Saturday to view the new cars, trucks, and motorcycles that are on display from 34 car and nine motorcycle brands. There are also exhibits from scores of aftermarket parts and accessory vendors. The IMPACT center (point B on map below) is about 17 miles from my apartment (point A), a half-hour drive in normal traffic. However, when large events, like the Motor Show, are held, the drive can easily take one hour.
Nissan has recently introduced three new models — the Pulsar, the BIG Urvan, and a freshened March eco-car — and these models, along with the Ellure concept car, were highlighted at the Motor Show. The gas-electric hybrid Ellure, first shown in LA in 2011, has side view cameras rather than the traditional side mirrors.
Honda debuted its new D-segment Accord while Toyota launched its newly designed, B-segment Vios sedan. Ford introduced the production version of its EcoSport compact SUV and showed off its freshened Fiesta B-segment sedan. Lexus brought the IS 300h, its entry-level hybrid sedan, to the ASEAN market; it will sell for $100,000+ here in Thailand, about 3x the U.S. price because of the high import tariffs. Suzuki displayed its new Ertiga, a multipurpose van that it produces in Indonesia and thus can bring to Thailand tax-free under the ASEAN free-trade agreement.
Hyundai introduced its Veloster to the Thai market. This vehicle, which went on sale in Korea in 2011 and in the U.S. last year, has three doors — a large one on the driver’s side and two smaller ones on the passenger side. The last vehicle that I can recall with asymmetric doors was the AMC Pacer that had a longer door on the passenger side than on the driver’s side. The VW Scirocco arrived in Thailand last year but this was the first one that I have seen. A good-looking coupe but with a local price of over $80,000, it is little wonder that I have not yet spotted one on the sois of Krung Thep.
Chevrolet brought two concept cars — the Code 130R and the Tru 140S — both of which were unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2012. The 130R is an aggressively styled rear-wheel drive coupe with flared fenders, a bold front fascia, and the Chevy’s iconic crossed-flags badge. The family ties to the Camaro are unmistakable. In contrast, the matte-white 140S is a front-wheel drive hatchback that GM describes as an affordable exotic. Unfortunately, neither car is yet slated for production.
Mitsubishi unveiled is G4 concept sedan here and brought along the GR HEV pickup that it first showed in Geneva earlier this month. The G4 is a lightweight eco-sedan but the styling is quite bland and the proportions just look off. This could be because of the undersized wheels or because of the larger doors that are designed for easier entry and egress. The GR HEV is a sleek, diesel-electric, body-on-frame pickup truck that mates a 2.5 liter diesel with an electric motor. While I like the styling, it might be a bit too futuristic for the typical pickup buyer.
Sports cars are always an attraction at any auto show and Bangkok is no exception. The Lamborghini Aventador is powered by a 12 cylinder engine with a 6.5 liter (400 cubic inch) displacement that produces 700 hp and can go from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds. Despite (or maybe because of) its $1.2 million price tag, this matte-black beauty had a sold sign on it. The smaller, less powerful, but more affordable Superleggera (10 cylinders, 570 hp, 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, $800,000) was still available, however.
The high-end of the market gives most of us something either to aspire to or to lust after. If you like white cars, you will love the stunning Bentley Continental GT coupe or the Rolls Royce Ghost, one of only 35 in existence worldwide. The more prosaic, but nevertheless still gorgeous, Jaguar XJ sedan or XK coupe or the Porsche Panamera or Carrera would also be fine rides.
I was able to roam through Challenger Hall for an hour or so before the venue was opened to the public. Once the crowd arrived, the Pretties were there to make sure that if the attractive sheet metal didn’t draw your attention on its own, they would. These young ladies love to preen for the camera and it really doesn’t matter if it is a simple cell phone or the highest end digital SLR. For some reason, I tend to be most attracted to those who present the motorcycles — the Ducati ladies, in particular, are stunning.
Have a Happy and Joyous Easter!
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2013 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.