BANGKOK, Aug 3 – Thailand’s auto production this year is expected to reach 1.65 million vehicles, higher than the earlier targeted 1.4 million, according to vice chairman of Toyota’s Thai business unit Ninnart Chaithirapinyo.

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Thai auto production expected to reach 1.65 million units

Investor confidence in Thailand’s automotive industry is as strong as ever after an unveiling of major projects by leading auto companies in recent weeks. The explosion of new investment in an already robust sector is pushing the country closer to the goa of being a global Top 10 automaker by 2014, when local capacity is projected to hit 2.3 million units.

The furry of investment announcements in late June and early July started with the Ford Motor Company revealing plans to build a 15 billion baht (US$450 million) state-of-the-art passenger car plant in Rayong province. The 750,000sqm factory will start production in 2012, with an initial capacity of 150,000 units.

Joe Hinrichs, group vice president and president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa, said the new project underscores the company’s long-term commitment to Thailand. “The decision to build our new plant was supported by Thailand’s world-class automotive industry and logistics and export infrastructure,” he remarked.

Toyota Motor Thailand also recently announced that it will invest 4 billion baht to expand its Chachoengsao province plant to 200,000 units per year, as current capacity cannot meet rising demand. One of the plant’s key lines will be the so-called innovative international multipurpose vehicle or IMV.

Becoming the third major automaker to unveil expansion plans within a period of just two weeks, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. revealed intentions to build a 15 billion baht eco-car manufacturing plant in Chonburi province. This represents the company’s largest ever investment in Thailand and its biggest facility outside Japan. The plant eventually will have an annually capacity of 200,000 small fuel-efficient and eco-friendly cars, with production scheduled to begin in 2012.

“Thailand will be our export hub for the Global Small Car,” Osamu Masuko, president of Mitsubishi Motors, said to the local media.

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