ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Japanese car cooperation now doubtful
Production of Nissan's brisk-selling Frontier Navara pickup trucks at Thailand's Mitsubishi factory has been thrown into doubt.
The plan was aimed at addressing Nissan's capacity shortfall as part of a cooperation agreement announced late last year between the two Japanese carmakers, especially in the mini-car and global commercial vehicle segments.
The two are also considering collaborating on engineering and manufacturing a new generation of one-ton pickup trucks.
However, a senior executive at Mitsubishi Motors (Thailand) admitted there is a "low possibility" for it to expand capacity at its two local factories while it focuses on building a 16-billion-baht third plant to make compact vehicles for local and export sales. "Is there even enough room for Nissan since the production capacity of Mitsubishi's plants is nearly at a maximum?" he asked rhetorically.
The new plant, adjacent to the two existing ones in Laem Chabang, Chon Buri, will produce 150,000 vehicles a year starting in March 2012, rising later to 200,000. The executive ruled out the possibility of making the Frontier Navara at the new facility, as it is designed to produce only small cars.
The two existing Mitsubishi factories have a combined annual capacity of 200,000 units - 50,000 passenger cars at one and 150,000 pickup trucks and passenger pickup vehicles at the other. Mitsubishi produced an estimated 190,000 vehicles in Thailand last year, exporting 160,000. The plan to make pickup trucks at the Mitsubishi plant remains under study.
Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of parent Nissan Motor Co, also ruled out the possibility of expanding Nissan's Thai plant at present even though it was at maximum capacity.
"We'll have more products and maybe increase our production in the future, but we have no plans for that now. For now, we can use the production capacity from different factories around the world to produce the March," he said, referring to the company's popular new subcompact eco-car.
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