Ford to expand in Thailand, US firm supplies electric busses


Ford Motor Corporation announced last week it will invest $186 million to expand its manufacturing facilities in Thailand, underscoring the continuing importance of the Kingdom as a regional production base, as BYD Company of San Diego said it will compete to supply the Bangkok Metropolitan Transit Authority with its first fleet of electric busses this year.

Ford will invest in expanding the facility it operates in Rayong on the Eastern Seaboard in a joint venture with AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) in order to increase production of its Ford Ranger pickup trucks. The facility is Ford’s largest manufacturing plant in the Asia-Pacific region and Thailand has been one of the largest markets for pickup trucks in the world for many years. The larger facility, however, will produce pickup trucks mainly to meet regional demand. The Ford Ranger is sold in 180 markets worldwide.

The investment represents a significant vote of confidence in Thailand by one of the “Big Three” automakers from the United States, all of whom manufacture in Thailand and have said they remain committed to investing and producing in the Kingdom. Although regional trade and investment barriers are falling with the advent of the 10-country ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Economic Community, or AEC, Thailand’s infrastructure and logistics capabilities give it an advantage over competing economies within the bloc that can offer cheaper labor.

“Thailand’s commitment to the continued growth of its world-class car industry gave Ford the opportunity to further leverage the country’s skilled workforce and market expertise as well as the strategic footprint Ford had already established in Thailand,’’ said Mark Kaufman, Ford’s president for ASEAN, in an interview with the Bangkok Post newspaper.

The 750,000 square meter assembly plant in Rayong is a fully integrated facility that houses the world’s fastest stamping presses, the latest automated robot technology and employs the highest standards of environment-friendly construction and processes.

Meanwhile, Bangkok should get a little “greener” this year as the Bangkok Metropolitan Transit Authoritysaid it will put between 200 and 300 electric busseson the capital’s roads. Companies will be asked to submit tenders to become suppliers within three months.

One of the firms that will compete for the contract is BYD Company. Headquartered in San Diego, BYD also manufacturers electric busses in the Kingdom.

Recently, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took a test ride on BYD’s K9 electric bus and heaped praise on the company and its vehicle. “Electrified vehicles are an inescapable global trend and Thailand won’t miss out on this. The K9 embodies the performance and excellence required for quality public transportation,” the Prime Minister said after the test ride.