Sawadee krub! Hello from Impact Muang Thong Thani, where the 2012 edition of the annual Thailand International Motor Expo opens today.

Some may dismiss this show as a mere “year end sales” event, but our trips here have been profitable – Proton gave the Saga FL a world debut here in 2010, and the same event saw Honda unveil its Brio prototype to the world. There are a couple of interesting cars this year, not to mention the pretty ladies, but let’s kick off with the official launch of the Proton Prevé and Exora Prime for the Thai market.

When the Prevé was launched back home in April this year, it was billed as Proton’s global car, and it’s living up to the name, market-by-market. Last month, the C-segment sedan made its Aussie debut in Sydney and now Thailand becomes the Prevé’s second foreign market. Like in Malaysia, Prevé doesn’t replace the Persona here, but will be sold alongside the older sedan as a more upmarket option.

In Thailand, the Prevé can be had in three variants, Standard, Executive and Premium. The first two are powered by a 109 hp/150 Nm 1.6 litre Campro IAFM+ engine, while the Premium variant is shipped with the 1.6 litre turbocharged Campro CFE engine with 138 hp and 205 Nm between 2,000 to 4,000 rpm.

The five-speed manual option is available to both Campro IAFM+ powered trim levels (Std and Exec), but the turbo engine is CVT-only. However, all three variants can be paired to a CVT gearbox, even the baseline Standard.

The Punch-sourced VT2 CVT for the Campro IAFM+ has six virtual ratios while the CFE motor is paired to a “seven-speed ProTronic” VT3 unit with a higher torque limit. Only the Premium gets steering shift paddles.

No difference mechanically and in apperance between Prevés sold in Malaysia, Australia and Thailand, but there are slight spec variations due to unique market requirements.

In Thailand, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist and dual front airbags are standard across the board, with the Executive adding on side airbags. The Premium has the full package of front/side/curtain airbags and ESC. In Australia, every Prevé comes with six airbags and ESC, while in Malaysia, the Premium variant gets front/side airbags and ESC.

Proton’s deputy CEO Datuk Lukman Ibrahim tells us that moving forward, there will be a “harmonisation of standards” spec wise, bringing global standards to the Malaysian market. This will benefit the local customer as Proton pushes its cars in developed markets like Australia and the UK. “Safety should be the same for everybody. Going forward that’s the approach,” he said.

Safety kit aside, Thai-bound Protons are tuned to accept E20 fuel, and we also noticed a new Blaupunkt 2-DIN touch-screen head unit, which has a larger screen than the unit in our Prevé Premium. Check it out in the gallery.

Sold in Thailand by sole distributor Phranakorn Auto Sales, which also sells various marques from Chevrolet to Fiat, the Prevé range starts from 625,000 baht for the Standard M/T to 759,000 baht for the top spec Premium. Prices are on-the-road with insurance.

Meanwhile, Proton also introduced the Exora Prime variant to the Thai market. The 899,000 baht Prime will be the most luxurious version of the Exora MPV, which was launched in 2009 and is now Proton’s most popular model in the Land of Smiles. Unlike the regular Exora, the Prime is a six-seater with two individual seats in the middle row.

Exterior upgrades include a new front and rear bumper design, electric folding door mirrors, rear disc brakes, blacked-out headlamps, smoked rear combi lights, 16-inch gold-finished alloys and a rear garnish.

The meat inside consists of leather, walnut trim on the dashboard and metallic door switch covers and inner door handles. The front seat headrests incorporate 6.2-inch LCD screens for the DVD player and audio system with navigation and reverse camera.

Both new models are now on sale at 31 Proton dealerships across Thailand. A network expansion programme is ongoing as we speak, which will bring the dealer count to 35 by early next year, all 3S centres.

We managed to catch up with Proton’s new management at the show, so more details on the company’s Thai and export plans are coming your way. Stay tuned for more news from the Thai Motor Expo!