Thailand’s Ministry of Finance expects a total of 600,000 cars will have been sold under its first-time buyers’ incentive programme when its runs out at the end of December 2012.

The scheme was introduced in September 2011 and was designed to kick-start sales of a new wave of locally-made small cars produced under the government’s Eco-Car programme, which offered generous tax incentives to manufacturers.

The first-time buyer scheme entitles buyers to tax rebates of up to THB 100,000 (USD 3,260) from the government for the purchase of cars with a maximum price tag of THB 1,000,000.

Somchai Pulsawas, director-general of the Thai Excise Department, said the initial target was for 500,000 vehicles to be sold under the first-time buyers scheme. As of 28th November, more than 581,000 car buyers had applied for the rebates, for a total value of THB 42.9 billion. The average rebate is around THB 74,000.

The Thai domestic vehicle market is on target to set a new record high of close to 1.4m units this year, compared with the previous high of just over 800,000 units set in 2010.

The excise department said applications could spike in the final month of the year, before the programme expires, possibly bringing total first-time buyer applications to 800,000.