By Watchara Pussayanawin
Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk believes the Thai auto industry could be producing more than 3.4 million vehicles a year by 2017, surpassing the 3-million-a year-target, to become the world's fifth-largest automobile-manufacturing nation.
To serve this growth, Thailand is striving to develop 300,000 skilled workers by 2016.
Prasert said Japan had inquired about Thailand’s support policy for the automobile industry. Apart from domestic requirements, export needs are also growing, especially to Asean countries where demand for safe, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles is expected to expand rapidly.
The Thai government is promoting investment in the production of fuel-efficient subcompact cars under the second-phase eco-car project, which is expected to begin production in 2016 after receiving the Board of Investment promotional privileges next year.
The automobile and components industry remains vital to the Thai economy. Currently, there are more than 2,400 auto-component manufacturers in the country.
Thailand should turn out more than 2.5 vehicles this year, for the honour of Asean’s top automobile producer and ninth in the world, edging out Asean rivals such as Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce 1.06 million and 569,000 units a year respectively.
The Thailand Automotive Institute plans to develop about 300,000 skilled workers by 2016 to support the automobile industry and to avoid both manpower shortages and recruiting wars with other sectors. The objective is for one skilled worker to produce six vehicles a year as opposed to the current rate of three a year, which is rather low relative to Japan’s rate of 11-12 vehicles a year per worker.