News / Asia

Thailand Races to Supply SE Asia’s Demand for Vehicles

Thailand Racing to Supply SE Asia’s Demand for Vehiclesi
X
October 22, 2013 8:33 PM
Thailand is gaining a reputation as the “Detroit of the East” for its booming automobile industry. It is now the world's third largest maker of commercial vehicles, behind only the United States and China and ranked ninth in total vehicle production. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Rayong, Thailand, where many foreign-branded auto makers are producing vehicles for Southeast Asia’s growing middle class.
Thailand is gaining a reputation as the “Detroit of the East” for its booming automobile industry. It is now the world's third largest maker of commercial vehicles, behind only the United States and China and ranked ninth in total vehicle production. Many foreign-branded auto makers are producing vehicles in Rayong for Southeast Asia’s growing middle class.

This is one of the estimated two-and-half million vehicles rolling off Thailand's assembly lines this year.
 
Ford's regional president, Matt Bradley, praised the country as a highly successful model for manufacturing.

"Thailand, I think, has made a concerted effort from government policy in the last 15 years to plan to support the automotive industry. Ford has been in Thailand about 17 years and just since 2007 we've invested over a billion dollars in our manufacturing and product cycle plant footprint in Thailand," he said.

The automotive sector is now Thailand's third largest industry comprising 12 percent of the country's GDP and employing 400-thousand workers.

Bangkok's clogged roads attest to the success - with sales accelerated by government tax rebates to first-time buyers. 

But can these vehicles rival those made in Japan, Europe or the United States?
 
Honda executive vice president Pitak Pruittisarikorn said the Japanese automaker was making high quality vehicles here at a competitive cost.

"For Honda, cost efficiency is one of our key strategies. So we have established the good relationship with the strong and the highest quality parts suppliers, global suppliers and local suppliers," said Pitak.

  • About 2.5 million cars and trucks will be built in Thailand in 2013. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • A robot helping to make a vehicle in a Honda factory in Thailand. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • Future expansion of the Thailand's auto production industry could be hampered by a labor shortage. But women are already a vital element of the workforce, comprising one nearly third of workers in some factories. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • Sparks fly as a robot helps to assemble a vehicle in a GM factory. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • Honda is among auto manufacturers in Thailand striving to take a larger share of the domestic market from dominant Toyota, which in recent years has sold nearly one in three vehicles purchases in the country. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • A worker welding inside the body of a car on a GM assembly line in Thailand. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • About 400,000 workers are employed in Thailand automobile factories. These workers in the Ford canteen enjoy a free meal during their shift. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • An engine completing a ten minute "hot test" after being assembled at the GM Duramax plant in Thailand. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • Some automakers manufacture their own engines in Thailand. Others import them. This Ford engine is made in India. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)
  • Automakers say while they strive to make cars in Thailand which meet global standards the vehicle designs need to be modified to meet the criteria of Southeast Asian roads and driving habits. (Steve L. Herman/VOA)

Some automakers operating in Thailand import critical parts, including engines, from overseas.
 
However, GM Powertrain plant manager Jennifer Bigelow said the American automaker not only assembled its engines on site but also sourced their components in Thailand.
 
“It is definitely cost effective. We reduce shipping costs, we develop partners here that we can then work with and develop that partnership to help improve our engine and our product,” said Bigelow.

Manufacturers must also tailor their vehicles to meet regional demand, designing components such as four-cylinder diesel engines, which take advantage of the widespread availability of affordable diesel fuel.

“The product engineering teams do extensive research in each of the markets in which we operate to make sure that we are developing a product that is suitable for not only the environment but also the driving habits of the markets in which we are selling vehicles to,” said  GM executive Michael Perez.

Thailand's dominant auto production industry, led by Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers, faces obstacles, even though it exports vehicles beyond Southeast Asia (ASEAN) to Japan, the Middle East and North America. 
 
Expansion is hampered by a shortage of labor in a country with nearly full employment. That has led to opportunities for women, who comprise nearly one-third of the workforce at some Thai auto plants. 
 
And when extensive flooding in 2011 shut down manufacturing plants and parts suppliers, upstart Indonesia briefly overtook Thailand in production, ushering in a rivalry certain to continue for many years to come.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid