Japanese car maker Toyota Motor Thailand Co (TMT) on Wednesday opened its first test drive centre for the general public, with 18,000 customers a year expected.
The Toyota Driving Experience Park, located on 22 rai at Bang Na-Trat Road Km 3, cost 100 million baht excluding land purchase and is Toyota Motor Corporation’s first such facility outside Japan.
Suttipong Smittachartch, director of the park, said it was modelled after the Toyota Safety Education Center, located in the foothills of Mount Fuji in Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture.
However, the 35,200-square-metre Thai centre is smaller than the one in Japan, which boasts 130,000 sq m.
The Thai test drive centre was designed by Germany’s IngenAix GmbH, which specialises in crafting racetracks and driving centres.
Both on- and off-road terrains are offered for test drives, which are free of charge.
TMT provides 15 instructors and 40 Toyota vehicles for a daily capacity of 100 customers.
“We welcome all customers and prospects to register for a test drive at our 435 Toyota showrooms nationwide,” Mr Suttipong said.
“Our test drives are free, while in Japan they cost ¥28,000 to ¥48,000 (8,400 to 14,400 baht).”
In partnership with the Land Transport Department, TMT will in November introduce a training course for first-time drivers at the centre.
Those passing the course and a test will be given a driving licence.
Toyota has another test drive centre for internal purposes on Bang Na-Trat Road Km 29 in Samut Prakan province.
Established in 2007, the 1.3-billion-baht centre is operated by Toyota Motor Asia Pacific Engineering & Manufacturing Co (TMAP-EM), a research and development arm focusing on Asia and Oceania.
TMAP-EM’s 2,550 employees include 2,000 Thais.
TMT expects to sell 280,000 vehicles domestically this year, down by 14.4%.
That target has been revised down from 330,000 vehicles due to the economic downturn.
That will make the third straight year of contraction in Thailand for Toyota.
TMT sold 145,669 vehicles in the first seven months of this year, down by 22.9% year-on-year, while the overall car market declined by 15.8% to 429,972 vehicles.
The company also cut the overall industry forecast for 2015 to 800,000 vehicles from 920,000, which would represent a 9.28% decrease from last year.