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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More