By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Rayong engine, transmission plant to churn out 400,000 sets per year starting next month, all-new Mazda2 to be exported to global markets
Mazda is making Thailand one of its global manufacturing and export centres and is currently driving into new markets with its Thai-made vehicles and parts.While the kingdom was previously the production and export hub for the BT-50 pickup truck, the award-winning Mazda2 subcompact will also be exported to global markets as far away as Australia and Europe.Apart from assembling vehicles, Mazda has invested more than Bt11 billion to manufacture engines and transmissions here in the country, with new factories being built in Rayong.
Mazda vehicles are assembled at the AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) plant there, which is a joint venture with Ford Motor. Ford produces its Ranger pickup truck at this plant.The engine plant will go into operation next month with a massive production capacity of 400,000 sets per year. This is the first Mazda transmission plant to be built outside Japan.Meanwhile, a Bt3-billion engine plant will churn out efficient Skyactiv engines for the Mazda2 and Mazda3 models starting in late 2016. Mazda has yet to finalise the production target.
“While production of small-volume models takes place in Malaysia and Vietnam, Thailand will serve as a major supply base for this region,” said Hidesuke Takesue, the newly appointed president of Mazda Sales (Thailand). “Thailand is the largest market for Mazda in Asean, with assembly as well as production of engines and transmissions,” he added.The country is Mazda’s sixth-largest market in the world, with sales expected to reach 35,000 vehicles this year.Takesue, who was previously stationed in Bangkok from 2006-2009 as director for Mazda Sales Thailand’s business strategy department, said Mazda had done so well in Thailand in the past several years that it would be used as a model for expansion across Southeast Asia.“When I was stationed in Thailand before, Mazda sold only 14,000 vehicles per year, but this year the figure has gone up to 35,000 units, due to the [additional] investments we made at AAT and the engine and transmission plants,” he revealed.“Mazda Motor Corporation has hailed Mazda Sales Thailand as the blueprint for the brand worldwide. Thailand is the centre and a major market for launching new models as well as displaying new technologies. This includes our Skyactiv technology. Thai people, meanwhile, will definitely get their hands on the new Mazda2 early next year,” Takesue said.
“This year, we are likely to achieve our sales target of 35,000 vehicles without much difficulty. Meanwhile, total auto sales in Thailand will rise above 850,000 units, and Mazda plans to achieve a 4-per-cent market share. Next year, with market sales expected to grow to 900,000 vehicles, Mazda plans to win a 5-per-cent market share [45,000 vehicles],” he added.The automaker’s sales network in Thailand is also growing, with 160 outlets to be increased to 170 next year.While it imports the CX-5 crossover from Malaysia, Mazda has been exporting both CBU (completely built up) and CKD (completely knocked down) kits of the BT-50 from Thailand to other Asean countries such as Vietnam, where Mazda sales has grown from a mere 500 vehicles in 2010 to an enormous 10,000 in 2014.Mazda sales in Malaysia are also surging. According to Takesue, sales are expected to jump from 1,000 vehicles in 2013 to 10,000 by 2018.