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SAIC plans for Thai ute revealed

Scooped: A camouflaged engineering prototype of the all-new LDV ute spotted testing in China earlier this year – and revealed exclusively by GoAuto.

Thai deputy prime minister announces SAIC plan for 100,000 vehicle ute plant

LDV logo21 Jul 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

A SENIOR Thai government minister has announced that Chinese automotive giant SAIC Motor has agreed to build up to 100,000 pick-up trucks a year in Thailand, in a move that could have consequences for the one-tonne ute market in Australia.

Although there is no word yet on production timing or whether any of the vehicles will be exported, SAIC’s Australian light-commercial vehicle distributor, Ateco Automotive, has previously intimated to GoAuto that it will launch an all-new one-tonne ute under the LDV brand on the Australian market next year.

The light truck – a rival for the likes of Great Wall’s upcoming Steed and a raft of Japanese and American one-tonners – is in the final stages of development in China where it will go on the market next year under SAIC’s alternative LCV brand, Maxus, alongside the V80 and G10 vans.

It is unclear if this is that same vehicle that is being proposed for production in Thailand which is regarded as the global hub of one-tonne pick-up manufacturing, exporting thousands of vehicles such as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Everest across the world.

Returning from a recent trade and investment expedition to China where he met SAIC Motor executives, Thai deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak reportedly told journalists that SAIC – which already builds MG cars in Thailand – would expand its operation to include pick-up manufacturing “with a target of 100,000 units a year”.

The vehicles will be built by SAIC’s Chinese-Thai joint venture, SAIC Motor-CP, at Rayong, where the organisation announced in May that it planned to build a second plant at a cost of between 30 and 40 billion baht ($A1.1-1.5b).

The new factory will more than triple the company’s Thai production capacity from 50,000 to 150,000 units a year.

Ute production in Thailand would give SAIC ready access to the ASEAN market while also – potentially – providing duty free access to the Australian and New Zealand markets along with relatively low-cost shipping.

Asked in June last year if Thai exports of LDV products were on the cards, LDV Automotive Australia general manager Dinesh Chinappa told GoAuto: “I think that is moving from possible to probable.”

SAIC’s other export brand, MG, also has considered shipping at least one model from Thailand to Australia at some point after the brand returns to the Australian market in October, although the three models – the MG6, MG3 and GS – all will come from China initially.

LDV distributor Ateco Automotive said today it has no knowledge of a Thai move for its planned ute, that will go on sale alongside the current two vans and a planned SUV based on the pick-up.

Spy shots of a camouflaged engineering mule of the ute in China reveal a four-door dual-cab configuration. However, a single-cab-chassis version is also expected.

The pick-up is likely to surface at next year’s 2017 Auto China in Shanghai in April. The SUV will come later, most likely with a 2018 start date.

In April this year, SAIC showed a concept for a full-sized SUV – even bigger than Toyota’s LandCruiser – at the Beijing show.

Dubbed Maxus D90, the big 4x4 could be built on the same ladder chassis as the ute, although it seems too large for the Chinese market.

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