The presence of a Mitsubishi Fuso truck plant will increase the chances for Thailand to assemble Subaru automobiles, according to Glenn Tan, executive director of Tan Chong International Ltd, the Hong Kong-listed motor distribution, property and trading group.
Tan Chong, through its wholly owned subsidiary Motor Image Group, recently entered into an agreement with Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan to assemble Subaru compact sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in Malaysia.
Since it already owns an assembly plant in Malaysia, Tan Chong decided to use the facilities to produce Subarus with no need to invest additionally.
Subaru SUVs will be marketed in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand where total passenger car sales are larger than in other markets combined across Southeast Asia.
Tan Chong also owns the Fuso truck plant at Lat Krabang in Bangkok, which it bought from Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation and Mitsubishi Fuso Truck Thailand in late 2009. Tan Chong, through its wholly owned subsidiaries – TC Manufacturing and Assembly (Thailand) Co and Fuso Truck (Thailand) Co – has been building and distributing Fuso trucks in Thailand since April last year.
If Subarus were to be made locally, Mr Tan said the company would need to invest to upgrade the lines for passenger car production in addition to truck production.
The Malaysian facilities will start assembling SUVs based on the Subaru XV concept in October next year with a capacity of 5,000 units per year.
Mr Tan said 2,000 Subaru SUVs built in Malaysia would be slated for sale in Thailand in 2013 and the rest equally split between Malaysia and Indonesia.
In addition, about 500 Subarus imported from Japan will be sold in 2013.
Subaru automobiles have good prospects in Thailand since the brand has been in the country longer than in Malaysia and Indonesia, said Mr Tan.
SUVs imported from Malaysia will enjoy zero tariffs under the Asean Free Trade Area agreement, making them cheaper than those imported from Japan.
Apichai Thamsiraruk, general manager of Motor Image Subaru Thailand said it sold 80 Subaru automobiles in the first half of this year and expected to sell 70 more in the second half.
To prepare to market the Malaysian-built SUVs, Mr Apichai said Subaru would add more dealers and increase sales and service outlets by next year to 15.
Mr Tan, who is also chief executive of Motor Image Group, admitted that Subaru sales in Thailand were low, and said the company would embark on brand-building, advertising and promotional campaigns before launching the SUVs.
Source: Bangkok Post