Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker, may move production of some cars to Thailand, reducing its reliance on Japanese factories.
“We are starting consulting with Toyota Motor Japan, but things are not finalized yet,” about moving some production to Thailand, said Kyoichi Tanada, president of Toyota Motor Thailand Co., in an interview in Bangkok. He declined to say which models are being considered and said a final decision may take as long as two years.
Automakers including Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. are moving production to Thailand as manufacturing costs rise in other regions. Nissan plans to produce 90,000 March compacts in the country this year, the company said Wednesday. Ford, which has cut its U.S. workforce 47 percent since 2006, plans to make its Focus model at a new $450 million factory in Thailand by 2012.
Toyota, the largest automaker in Thailand, makes its one-ton Hilux Vigo pickup truck and Fortuner sport utility vehicle in the country for export. Lower costs and a strong supplier base are among Thailand’s advantages, Tanada said.
The automaker, whose Vios is the best-selling car in the country, has raised its sales forecast for Thailand to 270,000 vehicles this year from an earlier estimate of 250,000, as the nation’s economy recovers from the global economic slump, Tanada said.
“Thailand is the success story of Southeast Asia,” said Tim Armstrong, Paris-based managing director at consulting company IHS Global Insight. “They’ve got the right policies to attract carmakers.”
A stronger Japanese currency makes exports from Japan less competitive. It also increases the attractiveness of other nations, particularly Thailand, as production sites.
Auto output in Thailand doubled in the first five months of the year, and the Finance Ministry raised its 2010 economic growth forecast for the second time in three months Wednesday as soaring exports offset the impact of recent political unrest.
Mazda Motor Corp. has not been able to produce vehicles quickly enough in Thailand to meet demand, Chief Executive Officer Takashi Yamanouchi said Thursday.
Toyota, which operates three assembly plants in the nation, has the capability to make up to 550,000 vehicles each year there, according to its Web site.
The carmaker, based in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, has no immediate plans to roll out a new car under the country’s “eco-car” program.
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