Ford expecting higher sales in region on Thai growth

ford1United States Big Three automaker Ford Motor Co., said it is expecting higher sales growth figures in the Southeast Asian region when numbers are tallied at the end of 2016 thanks to stronger performances in Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam, the company’s regional president said last week.

Last year, Thailand accounted for Ford’s highest sales in the region at 36,465 vehicles, a decline of 4.3 percent from a year earlier, but its market share edged up 0.3 points to 4.6 percent. Ford sold a total 103,975 vehicles in Southeast Asia last year, up 3.3 percent from 2014.

“Thailand still contributes the most sales in the region, with Ford’s sales increasing 20.1 percent for the period from January to October to 32,109 vehicles,” said Mark Kaufman, president of Ford ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), about Ford’s performance in Thailand in 2016.
Ford has faced serious challenges in parts of Asia that have long been dominated by Japanese rivals. In January, Ford announced that it would close down its plants in Indonesia – one of the fastest-growing markets in Southeast Asia – and Japan. Ford executives said they could not see a way to turn a profit in those countries.

General Motors also closed down its plants in Indonesia last year, citing a similar inability to overcome advantages held by Japanese automakers.

Last November, Ford said it would invest $186-million in subsidiary Ford Thai Manufacturing to make the Ford Ranger pickup. The increased investment is aimed at meeting demand for the model, which is its most popular in Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam. The Everest and EcoSport Sport Utility Vehicle, also manufactured in Thailand, were second and third in terms of sales.

Last month, Ford last began production of the Ranger at its wholly owned FTM plant in Rayong. Ford operates two manufacturing facilities in Thailand, both in Rayong province on the Eastern Seaboard, Thailand’s industrial heartland not far from Bangkok.

Ford’s first plant was a $1.6 billion facility through a joint venture with Mazda under the name AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT), and opened in 1997. The Ranger had previously been built only at AAT, which will remain the vehicle’s main Asia-Pacific production base. AAT turns out 240,000 cars a year, half of which are Ford models.

The new FTM facility will make 40,000 pickups a year, aiming to produce up to 80,000 annually in the future.