Japanese auto service providers pushing for expansion in Thai market

BANGKOK, NNA - Japanese auto service providers Autobacs Seven Co. and Premium Financial Services Co. are ramping up their Thai operations by teaming with local partners.

After operating "Autobacs" car care services in Thailand for 17 years, Autobacs Seven is aiming at aggressive expansion from its seven current operations to 240 outlets in the next five years, without depending on a franchise system.

The Japanese company signed an agreement with Thai fuel retailer PTG Energy Public Co. last week to grant the partner a 38.26 percent equity interest, worth 65 million baht ($1.9 million), in its Thai unit, Siam Autobacs Co., to strengthen the expansion program.

Autobacs Seven director Yugo Horii said the deal will help expand Autobacs outlets through PTG's 1,600 "PT" gas stations nationwide while PTG's loyalty program, with over six million members issued with "PT Max Cards," will also be of advantage in running marketing and promotional campaigns.

Of the 240 targeted Autobacs outlets, 100 are expected to be located at PT stations, PTG President and Chief Executive Officer Pitak Ratchakitprakarn said, adding that the partnership with Autobacs Seven in operating the Japanese auto service company in Thailand will raise its revenue from non-oil business and help diversify risk from oil price fluctuations.

Apart from the share acquisition, an investment budget of 1.4 billion baht is set aside for the Autobacs branch expansion. A medium-sized new store requires 3-5 million baht to set up, while a larger one will cost over 5 million baht.

Meanwhile, Premium Financial Services, an auto credit provider, plans to launch its own auto service brand dubbed "Fixman" in Thailand this year, collaborating with a Thai partner, Eastern Commercial Leasing Public Co., which also offers auto financial services.

Last year, the two partners set up a joint venture, Eastern Premium Services Co. with a registered capital of 20 million baht, aiming to operate auto care branches in Thailand.

EPS President Toshiyuki Nakatani told NNA the company will open three Fixman outlets on the outskirts of Bangkok this year, each with a floor space of 400 square meters and an investment budget of 3 million baht, with the first outlet scheduled to open next month.

Fixman will mainly target out-of-warranty used cars, three to five years old, because the used car segment is three times larger than the new car market, which annually totals 800,000 to 900,000 vehicles, Nakatani said. He added that the car care service will capitalize on Japanese repair know-how, parts warranty and explicit service rates. (NNA/Kyodo)