ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
New line strains Thai Mitsubishi
Limited production capacity is the main concern for Mitsubishi Motors Thailand if Nissan moves some of its Navara pickup truck production to the local Mitsubishi plant.
"News that Nissan would use Mitsubishi's production facilities here stunned us and so far we know nothing about the cooperation," said Nobuyuki Murahashi, the president of Mitsubishi Motors' Thai unit.
He was commenting on the agreement by the two Japanese automakers late last year to expand cooperation to new projects to improve competitiveness in the area of mini and commercial vehicles.
In Thailand, the two companies will explore the possibility of producing the Nissan Navara pickup at the Mitsubishi plant.
Mr. Murahashi said Mitsubishi has not yet received exact direction from its parent company, nor had he discussed the matter with his counterpart Toru Hasegawa at Nissan Motors Thailand. "First of all, we still don't know the number of Navara pickups Nissan needs to be built at the Mitsubishi plant," said Mr. Murahashi.
A study on the cooperation has not yet concluded.
Mitsubishi is currently building a new 16-billion-baht third plant at Laem Chabang in Chon Buri. Mr. Murahashi said the plant, capable of making 150,000 to 200,000 units per year, would produce only small compact cars for both domestic and export markets.
Mitsubishi's first plant at Laem Chabang builds Pajero Sport passenger pickup vehicles (PPV), Lancer and Lancer Ex sedans and Space Wagon multipurpose vehicles at a combined capacity of 50,000 units per year. The second one, also at Laem Chabang, produces Triton pickups at 150,000 units per year.
In 2010, Mitsubishi exported 180,767 Thai-built vehicles, of which 80% were Triton pickups and Triton-based Pajero Sport models. In the domestic market, Mitsubishi sold 39,549 units. The figures showed that the capacity of Mitsubishi's two plants was fully utilised.
Mr. Murahashi agreed that the possibility of developing the next generation of pickup trucks in Thailand would help reduce vehicle costs from spending in research and development. He predicted that local vehicle sales would grow to between 840,000 and 850,000 units this year, from an estimated 780,000 in 2010.
Positive factors include the increase in civil service salaries, investment expansion and new products including eco-cars and pickups. Mitsubishi aims to gain a 6 percent market share or 50,000 units sold this year.
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