250.000th CKD-transfer from Munich, © BMW AG

The history of the Bavarians started 1963 in South East Asia. BMW 700 was the first BMW, which was presented to Thailand. Thai Yarnyon Co., Ltd. was the enterprise, which did the import. In 1973, the year 2516 of buddhistic calendar, the government of Thailand decided to rise the taxes for imported vehicles to 80 %. The tax rate for locally assembled or manufactured cars was only 33 %. Because of that the import of foreign cars wasn't affordable any more for customers. The only possibility, to sell BMW 5 Series: Thailand had to import CKDs and assemblemble them locally.

Then a company named YMC Assembly Co., Ltd. was founded in Latkrabang, an eastern suburb of Bangkok. The BMW 520 was the first car, which Yontrakit Motors Assembly assembled. The Headoffice of Yontrakit is located in Prathumwan, Bangkok. Later the assembling was expanded with BMW 320 (E21), BMW 520i (E28), BMW 316/318i (E30), BMW 520i/525iA (E34), BMW 318i/323iA (E36), BMW 730i/740iAL (E38) and BMW 523iA (E39). Not only CKD's, also CBU's (Completely Build Up) were imported: BMW 730i (E23). The government of Thailand prohibited the import of CBU's in 1976. In the same year, YMC started to assemble other European vehicles. One of their best sellers was Peugeot 504 . Also in 1976 ATP Industry Co., Ltd. was founded. They produced Local Content Parts, parts which were manufactured locally, for BMW, Citroën and Peugeot.

In 1989 the government of Thailand opened the doors for import of CBU's again. But cars with a bigger capacity had a higher tax. A car with a higher capacity was for example the BMW E32 (BMW 7 Series). At that time Yontrakit had a big portfolio of imported cars. Brands like Audi, Seat, Volkswagen, Ford, Lancia and KIA were available. BMW cancelled their contracts with Yontrakit in 1998. BMW started local production from that on. At an industrial area called AMATA City, in the north of Pattaya, BMW built their new factory. Until that Yontrakit brought about 50,000 BMW vehicles to Thailands roads. Alltogether 3,780 CKD's of BMW E12 were delivered to Thailand. This is the 2nd largest number, which was assembled outside of Germany. It was surprising to me to see more than 1 % of total production within only two weeks in Bangkok (2009).

Map of Thailand, ©

On the first view you don't see any difference to an BMW E12, which was manufactured in Germany. But if you have an closer view to it, you see, that the windowwipers were not mounted at the prepared mouldings below the windscreen. These mouldings werde made for LHD (left hand drive) cars. Inside of the car you recognize a modified center console. Instead of the regulatros for heating and air adjustment you see two air jets. Also the two regulators above them are missing. The reason for this is the different climate condition. It is mainly warm and the temperatures don't fall below 18 degrees Celsius. There a heater is not necessary. But cool air is very important. That's the reason, why all Thailand E12 were fitted with an airconditioner. It is different from the regular aircon, because the storageplace in the middle of the centerconsole is not used for it. Beginning with 1977 the BMW E12 were fittet with the US-style bumpers, but they were fixed to the chassis. They don't use internal shock absorbers like the US models.

Today there are quite a lot of BMW E12 on the roads of Thailand. The reason for this is, that they were restored with enthusiasm and were modified to nowadys demands. Against hot tempreatures special heat protection foils are used. Not working engines were replaced by modern Japanese ones. Most of them also installed automatic transmission. Also often used is compressed gas instead of gazoline. The worn interior, like seats, seiling and door panels were remade and sometime very close to the original.. All the factors expand the life time of a car and made them economically. Also often seen are old cars of other Eurpean companies. New BMW 5 Series, like BMW E60 are not that often on the road. Here are some shots from: Behind the scenes.