Toyota considers landmark local outlay
Goal is compact car export centre
Leading Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corporation is about to make its biggest investment in Thailand to upgrade its compact car development and production centre for exports.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who had a meeting with Shinya Kotera, managing officer of Toyota Motor yesterday, said the firm chose Thailand for its global compact car export hub under its "emerging market compact car company" scheme.
The scheme will be developed by Toyota in partnership with its fully owned subsidiary Daihatsu Motor.
Mr Somkid quoted Mr Kotera as saying Toyota will expand its investment in compact car R&D and production in tandem with pickup trucks and hybrid production to develop economies of scale for electric vehicles (EVs) and EV batteries in the future.
Toyota also pledged to help train human resources on new automotive technologies, he said.
"The decision is likely to be approved by Toyota's board at its meeting in May," said Mr Somkid.
Ninnart Chaitharapinyo, vice-chairman of Toyota Motor Thailand, said the company has already discussed with the Japanese parent about its investment policy in making hybrid vehicles and parts in Thailand. The strategy is pending approval from the parent firm.
Mr Ninnart said Toyota is interested in applying hybrid technology as a common platform to develop other technologies such as EVs or fuel cell vehicles, but it wants to predict which future technology will get the best response from local consumers.
He said earlier last month the company is ready to move into hybrid EV (HEV) production here, and is scheduled to disclose its investment plan.
Toyota wants to export HEVs from Thailand and its EV production plan will focus largely on HEV models, as plug-in HEVs (PHEVs) and battery EVs require more advanced technology.
Mr Ninnart said the HEV segment is promising given the massive number of units sold globally. Some 1.4 million HEVs were sold last year, compared with only 150,000 units of PHEVs and 275,000 BEVs.
It is conducting a feasibility study to establish its own local battery manufacturing facility to serve Toyota's HEV production. He said Toyota would prefer to make nickel-metal hydride batteries, as it does in Japan and China. Some carmakers prefer lithium-ion batteries, said Mr Ninnart.