Ford adding 30 service centers in Bangkok to up market share

5_Ford4Ford Motor Corporation of the United States said last week it will add 30 service centers in the Thai capital Bangkok, and has been training 1,400 workers to staff them, as part of plans to raise its profile and market share in the Kingdom, while Japanese automakers reaffirmed their commitment to Thailand as their regional production base.

Japanese automakers dominate the Thai domestic car market, and although all Big Three American automakers have invested heavily in manufacturing in Thailand, much of what the produce is exported around the region. Last year, Ford held 4.6 percent of the Thai domestic market with 36,465 vehicles sold, an increase of just 0.3 percent from the previous year. All three American automakers have said, however, that they will continue to invest in Thailand, despite the sluggish economy.

Ford5One reason Thais prefer Japanese vehicles is the extensive service networks Japanese car companies have established in Bangkok and around the country. At the moment, Ford has only five service centers in the Thai capital, although it has 35 showrooms. Ford’s plan is to establish service centers at all 35 showrooms in Bangkok by the second quarter of this year. The centers will be joint investments by Ford and 10 different investors who are partners in the showrooms.

Narong Sritalayon, Ford Thailand’s dealership and consumer experience director, said the company plans to expand the training of staff and opening of new service centers to Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phitsanulok and Udon Thani by next year. All Ford’s dealerships nationwide will be running seven-days-a-week service by 2018, according to his plans.

“Ford has found our return on sales [net profit as a percentage of sales revenue] from all outlets increased 100 percent between 2014 and 2015 after the company started improving after-sale services,” Narong told the Bangkok Post newspaper. He cited a Ford internal survey that showed a return on sales of 1.2 percent in 2014 and 2.3 percent in 2015.

Ford has been providing after-sale service to 300,000 vehicles a year. There were 413,632 registered Ford vehicles in Thailand in 2015, according to the Land Transport Department.

Ford sold 103,975 vehicles in ASEAN last year, up 3.3 percent, with Thailand in the leading followed by the Philippines with 25,372 units sold, up by 25 percent. Vietnam came in third with 20,740 vehicles.

Meanwhile, Japan’s top four automakers told Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a meeting last week that they would continue to use Thailand as a major base for manufacturing, research and development. Thailand is already their largest manufacturing base outside of Japan.

Toyota said it plans to make hybrid vehicles that will use fuel cells. Isuzu will produce environmentally friendly pickup trucks, along with hybrid vehicles that consume biodiesel. Nissan will turn out electric cars for export, and Honda will use Thailand as its regional research and development center.

They praised Thailand’s policy of waiving import duties on prototype vehicles, saying that it helped cut research and development costs.