The Thai government is preparing to lead a trade mission to the US next month to look for investment opportunities in auto parts and services.

The mission is primarily for members of the newly established Thai Auto Parts Aftermarket Association who want to establish auto services and parts centres in Los Angeles. The association for second tier suppliers was established early this year. It now has 147 members, all Thai-owned, from 2,000 local suppliers

Thailand Trade Representative Vachara Phanchet said the country’s aftermarket industry was currently facing increased competition from China but also hardship from a bearish automotive industry.

He added: “The government wants to help the industry to invest abroad to stave off head-on competition with China. The investment in auto services and parts centres in the US will help the industry export more of its products.”

Los Angeles has been selected because many Thais live there. The mission has a goal for Thai companies to buy and set up 30 auto services centres in 2010 and up to 100 centres within five years.

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The US has 50,000 to 70,000 auto services and parts centres. Large and popular chains include Pep Boys, Auto Zone, Midas and Jiffy Lube. The government would ask the SME Bank and the Export and Import Bank of Thailand to support credit facilities for the participating businesses.