One way to make your mark anywhere in the world is to have the right car. In Thailand, the way to pick the right car is, first and foremost, to pick an imported model. Import duties in Thailand pile to around 100%, so your imported car is going to cost perhaps 50% more than a similar car made in Thailand, making imports more desirable as a status symbol. Phuket.Com met Phuket's king of luxury cars is Piriya Tantipiriyakij, Managing Director of Life Style Auto, specialising in imported cars.
Khun Piriya is a Phuket native and one of the new generation of local businessman. After graduating from Bangkok University with a degree in business administration, he went to the London School of Polymer Technology to get a diploma in rubber technology. He followed that up in 1985 with an MBA from Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. Since graduating, he has worked in the family businesses, which include rubber plantations and processing, property, and car sales.
Although the family had a number of high-end car agencies before then, in November last year Khun Piriya opened the imported car showroom in partnership with Bangkok-based import specialist SEC. The showroom is SEC’s only outlet in southern Thailand – another sign that Phuket is the south’s centre for luxury goods.
“In this new showroom, we sell only imported luxury cars,” Khun Piriya explains. The showroom can hold six cars at a time, all gleaming richly. In the corner on the day of our visit is a huge orange vehicle, a Land Rover sport SC costing a mere 9.65 million baht.
“Because of limited space of our showroom, we change the cars every three to four weeks, Khun Piriya explains. “Also, it’s important that we have new models often because we sell a total of 54 models from various top brands. This way it’s easier to attract potential buyers.”
Defining Luxury Cars in Thailand
The term “luxury imported car” as used in Thailand has a lot to do with price. And the price has a lot to do with import tax, which is around 100% - doubling the price of the car as soon as it lands in Thailand.
Take what would be regarded in Europe as a sporty but otherwise not particularly remarkable car, the Mini Cooper made by BMW.
Thanks to the tax, it costs 3 million baht in Thailand. In Phuket, if you own a Mini Cooper, you definitely stand out.
Rich Boys’ Toys
Phuket is no longer the fishing and rubber-tapping community it once was. These days people come to the island from all over the world. Some come for holidays only. Others live here full time. A good number of these people know what they want and can afford it. And they come to SEC in Phuket to get it.
“People who came to our showroom are not typical car buyers. Either they something that they are used to back home or they want something unique on the island that makes them feel really different. They don’t want to be just another guy in the traffic, if you know what I mean,” says Khun Piriya.
For SEC customers, money does not seem to be an issue. One customer came in to order two cars of the same expensive model – everything had to be identical. He paid cash. “This is the kind of customer we sometimes have,” Khun Piriya says with a smile.
Some Car Prices
Shopping for a car? Got deep pockets? Here are some prices for imported cars available from SEC in Phuket.
|Mercedes Benz S 500 L||16 million baht|
|BMW 650 convertible||14.5 million baht|
|Porsche Cayman S||11.2 million baht|
|Lexus GS 350||6.5 million baht|
|New Mercedes Benz New CLK 200||5.3 million baht|
|Audi TT Coupé 2,000 cc||5.2 million baht|
|Nissan Murano I 2,500 cc||3.2 million baht|
|Mini Cooper S JCW GP (Limited) 1,600 cc||3.1 million baht|
|Mini Cooper S Checkmate 1.6 cc||3.0 million baht|