Staff writer

BANGKOK -- Affected by the recent depreciation of the Thai baht against the world's major currencies, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co. will raise the prices of their vehicles sold in Thailand this month, executives of both companies said here Sept. 9.

MMC and Honda are considering a 3 percent price increase after Toyota Motor Corp. and Isuzu Motor Ltd. announced that they will raise the prices of their vehicles by an average of 3 percent starting Sept. 1. Takashi Murasawa, president of MMC Sittipol Co., MMC's subsidiary based in Thailand, said some local auto parts makers plan to increase prices because the recent plunge of the baht has increased costs for imported materials.

"Although 70 percent of auto parts used to make a pickup truck here are made locally, many materials used for auto parts are imported from Japan," Murasawa said. "In that sense, it affects our cost of production." The auto industry in Thailand has already been suffering from sluggish sales due to the country's economic turmoil, and such price increases by auto makers are likely to drive away consumers from purchasing new cars.

The industry sources predict that auto sales in Thailand are likely to drop to 400,000 units this year from 590,000 last year. To cope with overproduction, MMC laid off 400 contracted workers at its plants in Lamplatiew and Cholburi in May. Honda stopped night shift operations in its plant in Ayutthaya, reducing its production by 50 percent.