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February 6, 2009

Thai GM unit looks to state support

General Motors Corp said it would turn to Thai bank funding and government support for a delayed $445 million diesel engine project and future truck production in the wake of problems in the auto industry.

GM executives met Thai Industry Minister Charnchai Chairungrueng this week to discuss possible assistance for diesel-engine and pickup projects in Rayong province, Reuters quoted Steve Carlisle, GM president for South East Asia, as saying in a statement.

"Due to the financial crisis, which affects every major automobile manufacturer in every country of the world, our projects are delayed, notably our diesel-engine plant at Rayong," Carlisle said on Thursday.

To ensure progress, it needed "alternative funding solutions", he said, without elaborating. GM suspended construction at the diesel engine plant about three months ago as the global financial crisis forced its Detroit head office to seek a U.S. state bailout.

The company has scaled down vehicle production at its Rayong plant since mid-December due to falling demand caused by the global economic slowdown. The 100,000-unit plant about 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Bangkok produces pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, sedans and compact cars both for the Thai market and for export to the rest of Southeast Asia and Australia.

"We are not deviating from our past plans. Rather, we are merely exploring options in response to unforeseeable circumstances, just as any company would," Carlisle said.

"We may be in the middle of an economic crisis, but there are opportunities in a crisis. We want to make sure that when the economy improves, we are here to reap the benefits with the Thai people and move on to even greater heights," he said.

GM sold 23,343 cars and trucks in Thailand in 2008, up 9.9 percent from a year earlier. Its combined vehicle sales in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines rose 9.4 percent in 2008 to 32,023.

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