Thai auto industry: How not to map out a national policy
The recent news that Vietnam aims to produce its national car brand, VinFast, by the middle of next year – just over two years since the idea of a national car was conceived last year – should prompt a thorough re-evaluation of Thailand’s automotive industry policy and industrial policies in general.
The Thai auto industry can boast of being the largest in Southeast Asia and the 12th largest in the world, with an annual output of nearly two million passenger cars and pickup trucks. However, our failure to develop a national car brand during the 14 years since Thailand became the hub of car production in Asean, when output doubled to over 900,000 units in 2004, highlights an ineffective policy which overly emphasises attracting foreign direct investment while neglecting knowledge transfer and the development of indigenous technological innovation.
Let’s hope that the relevant elements of the Thailand 4.0 policy can overcome such severe shortcomings which result in failure to exploit our full potential. The past decades of missed opportunities to leverage on the apparent strengths of the auto industry should be a lesson learned on how not to map out a national policy.