Our northern neighbours Thailand were treated to good news when it was revealed that auto exports from the Land of Smiles reached a record high in July. Exports totalled 87,605 units last month, which is 140% more than July 09 figures. These vehicles were valued at 39.8 billion baht, up by 129% year-on-year.

If exports from the first seven months of the year are taken into account, there’s a 116% year-on-year jump to 505,783 units worth 235 billion baht. Orders from all regions, especially ASEAN, are up.

“Last month’s export success was due partly to the Customs Department’s streamlining of regulations and procedures to accommodate vehicle exports,” said spokesman Surapong Paisitpatnapong. In addition, the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement, which took effect in May, has reduced inter-region transaction times and costs.

Thai vehicle sales Jan-July 2010. Chart by Bangkok Post

Thailand’s auto industry is a big winner in the elimination of tariffs under the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA) since January, Kasikorn Research Center said. According to data from the Commerce Ministry, Thai vehicle exports to ASEAN was worth US$1.49 billion in the first half of the year, which is nearly a quarter (24.4%) of total value. ASEAN is now the largest market for Thai made cars.

Looking at Thailand’s domestic market, vehicle sales stood at 422,364 units in the first seven months, leading observers to believe that a 750,000 total industry volume (TIV) for 2010 is achievable. Unsurprisingly, Toyota is leading both the pick-up and passenger car sales charts, with over 40% market share in both tables.

Malaysia’s Proton is seventh in the passenger car chart with 3,684 units, or 2% market share. Not bad when those above it are all established Japanese players and GM, which has its regional base in the country. Proton, who set up shop in Thailand at the end of 2007, sold more cars than Ford, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Suzuki.