Car makers may help to fund testing centre

B8bn investment will boost competitiveness

The government is considering collecting contributions from car makers to raise money to establish a centre for testing and research development.

Contributions of 500 to 1,000 baht for each vehicle sold are being considered, according to Phayungsak Chatsuthipol, a member of the state's Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development (SCRF).

Mr Phayungsak said SCRF chairman Virabongsa Ramangura has instructed the Thailand Automotive Institute to study the feasibility of gathering money from car firms to fund the centre's establishment.

The institute has sought financial support from SCRF for its plan to set up the centre at a cost of 8 billion baht.

The centre is expected to serve the regional auto industry.

Mr Phayungsak, also chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said SCRF believed that contributions from car assemblers would follow the example of exporters contributing to the export development fund.

SCRF also believes the centre should be privately run to ensure operational efficiency.

In principle, SCRF believes that such a centre would improve the competitiveness of Thailand's automotive industry, both in assembly and parts manufacture, as well as small and medium enterprises.

It would help slash the investment costs of local entrepreneurs while increasing the standard of the auto industry to face greater competition from the Asean region in coming years.

The institute has proposed the government establish a testing centre following the requirement of Asean to beef up the standard of 19 categories of the auto industry.

Vehicles tested at the centre would need no testing in other countries.

Thai vehicle assemblers currently need to ship their products to be tested in India, Taiwan or Spain when a new series is launched.

Under the institute's plan, three proposed locations for the testing centre of at least 200 rai are Gateway City Industrial Estate, Amata City Industrial Estate, and Hemaraj Industrial Estate. These industrial estates are close to auto assembly plants.

Mr Phayungsak said the centre could raise the profile of Thailand and support car exports.

However, Sureethip Laongthong Chomthongdee, marketing director of Mazda Sales (Thailand), urged the government to discuss the plan for financial contributions with automakers.

Most firms already have their own research and development centres in the home countries of their parent firms.

Osamu Masuko, president of Mitsubishi Motors, said in automotive manufacturing countries such as Japan governments totally invest in research and development and testing centres to support the industry.

However, he said Mitsubishi plans to construct a car research and development centre near its plants in Rayong province within the next two years. It will be equal in size to its Okazaki and Hokkaido centres in Japan.

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Writer: Chatrudee Theparat & Piyachart Maikaew