Ford Motor Co. plans to build a $450 million passenger vehicle assembly plant in Thailand by 2012 as part of the U.S. company's catch-up game in rapidly expanding Asia.
The factory, to be built in the city of Rayong, will have capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year, Ford said in a statement. As much as 85 percent of the plant's output will be exported to markets outside Thailand. The debut product will be the next-generation Ford Focus.
“This investment underscores our long-term commitment to Thailand, and its role as a global production and export hub,” said Joe Hinrichs, who heads Ford Asia Pacific and Africa.
The plant will be Ford's second in Thailand, following a factory jointly operated with Japanese partner Mazda Motor Corp. That plant is just three miles away and makes the Mazda2 small car, the Ford Everest SUV, and the Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger pickups
The venture, known as Auto Alliance in Thailand, has annual capacity of 220,000 units.
Ford's business in the region is small relative to its well-established beachheads in Europe and Latin America. Hinrichs says Asia will be a major driver of profit in coming years.
Ford reported a $2.1 billion first-quarter net profit. Of that, Asia Pacific and Africa added the smallest operating profit: $23 million, compared with North America's $1.2 billion.
The new 750,000-square-meter (8.1 million-square-foot) assembly plant will support body assembly, paint, trim and final assembly. The paint shop will use Ford's 3-Wet technology paint process, which improves paint quality, while reducing emissions and waste.
The factory will employ 2,200 workers. Ford said it plans to purchase as much as $800 million of local components through Thailand's supplier network to support production.
The opening of Ford's new plant is expected to have no impact on the production schedule at the plant operated with Mazda, Mazda spokesman Kotaro Minagawa said.