Thai International Motor Expo 2009 - If you really must go

The Thailand International Motor Expo is set for another mindless run. From 2nd to 13th December prospective car buyers can go to the Impact Arena, Muang Tong Thani to check out the same cars that they can see at their local dealers. As usual the show has a theme, and this year it is: "Driving... for Sustainability."

If you have never been to a Thai Motor Expo before it might be worth checking out our features from previous years. I've reported on the Expo in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008! If you've taken the time to check out the previous reports you will notice that I never regarded the Expo that highly. So, in many ways I'm quite happy that I will not be in Thailand for it this time around.

The Motor Expo is little more than a glorified showroom. Sales staff will be competing hard to sell you a car. Fellow show-goers will be competing hard for a chance to sit in the new or popular models. There will even be a collection of over-priced second-hand cars taking up a large portion of the floor space.

For people expecting a "Motor Show", with concept cars and all that, the Motor Expo will probably be a let down. However if you are looking to buy a car, the Expo could give you an excellent opportunity to make direct comparisons and perhaps strike a very good deal.

Don't Pay For It!

The only reason you should go to the show is if you are REALLY in the market for a car. If you are, then the worst thing about the Expo is having to pay to get there and pay to get into the show. Nobody should have to pay to go into a showroom. If you do wish to go to the Expo, I would recommend the follow approach: Go to a local car dealer that have a car that you like in the weeks leading up to the show. Explain that you are interest in the car, test drive it, kick the tires, ask your questions. At some point the sales person will start to ask you questions like: "When are you going to buy?" Just tell them that you are planning to go to the Motor Expo and compare their car with the others. Ask him/her if he/she will be at the Expo. If so, they will be pretty enthusiastic about being the one to meet you and "close the sale" at the Expo. At this point they should offer you some free tickets to the Expo (they all have a stash somewhere behind their sales desk) or they will give you their card and have you call them so they can meet you at the entrance to the Expo. Either way you save yourself the entrance fee.

At least now when you go home after your day at the Expo you won't feel like you were robbed!

Do Some Research

When you are arranging your free tickets, collect the price lists. Be familiar with the specifications and pricing for the cars that you are interested in. Often the Expo "Promotions" will not actually be as good as they are made to sound. Also, in many cases the promotions are available in the weeks prior to the show anyway.

Buying at the Expo

Of course be careful, and don't get pressured into buying. Remember, there are lots more cars, and you don't really need to buy at the Expo. The sales person will probably make you feel like you'll lose out if you don't buy then, but they are under massive pressure to convert sales. In the current economy you should have a lot of power to negotiate. I suggest the following approach:

Once you have decided on the car and specification level that you are after maintain your cool, and keep a reasonably serious poker face. Ask for the best price on the car. Don't get caught up in discussions over repayments, deposits or any of that initially. Start out by getting a base price sorted, and then talk about payment methods.

Now ask about free extras. Of course none of these things are all that worth it. At a minimum you should be looking for them to give a year of 1st class insurance, although this is often not going to be offered on cars that are new to market. Most likely the sales person will make a list of free extras and their values. If there are any of those that you can live without, ask if you can have a cash discount instead. Often they will do that, and this can result in 30-50,000 baht additional discount.

They are still making money on the car, so you don't have to be thrilled if you see large discounts. At this point you should have a formal little piece of paper with the break down of the various payments that you must make, and a list of the stuff you'll get. Take it with you, thanking the sales person.

Repeat this process at various dealers. Compare the quotes. Now, for example, if Honda gave you a better deal, but you want the Toyota, you might go back to Toyota and let them know that you really would have liked to have bought their car, but Honda offered a much better deal because of XYZ reasons. They're probably going to react with a keen interest in changing your mind. They might start by trying to reiterate the benefits of the Toyota model over the competition, but they will probably make efforts to throw in something extra or make additional discounts.

Take some time to think

Often it is not necessary to put any money down at this stage. Whatever offer you get on paper will expire, and they won't honour it forever. However, the deal should last at least until the end of the Expo. So, you can go home and think it over before you commit your cash.