GM: Layoffs in America no issue in Thailand

GM: Layoffs in America no issue in Thailand

Cars made at General Motors' plant in Rayong province are exported around the globe.
Cars made at General Motors' plant in Rayong province are exported around the globe.

US car maker General Motors Thailand says its local operation in Rayong will see no impact from the layoff programme in North America, noting that the local plant has enjoyed a stable situation since the Detroit-based firm restructured in early 2015.

Last week, GM announced plans to cut as many as 14,000 workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it abandons many of its car models and restructures to focus on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction could amount to as much as 8% of GM's global workforce of 180,000 employees.

Sean Poppitt, director of communications for GM Southeast Asia, told the Bangkok Post that the Rayong plant continues to be a manufacturing hub for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, including Duramax diesel engine production.

GM entered Thailand in January 2000, later establishing two manufacturing facilities at Rayong's Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate -- a vehicle assembly plant with annual production capacity of 180,000 units and a powertrain plant with annual capacity of 120,000 units -- with a combined investment of US$1.4 billion.

These two facilities are in charge of exports across Southeast Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and North and Central America.

"The Rayong plant has 1,900 employees without any impact from the parent firm's policy," Mr Poppitt said.

In February 2015, the parent company announced a strategic transformation plan to restructure its Thai operations and withdrew itself from the second phase of the government's eco-car scheme.

Chevrolet pickups and SUVs are made and marketed in Thailand.

As part of a strategic plan, there were 500 job cuts out of 3,000 during the restructuring period. GM ceased production of the Sonic and Cruze passenger cars and the Captiva SUV.

The Rayong plant now makes two Chevrolet models: the Colorado pickup and the diesel-based TrailBlazer SUV.

The plan also meant the closure of GM's plant in Bekasi, Indonesia, so the Rayong plant became the sole manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia alongside a partnership assembly plant in Vietnam.

Piyanuch Chaturaphat, general director for sales and marketing at Chevrolet Sales Thailand, GM's local distribution arm, said that with the Thai operations in a normal situation, the company is studying the feasibility of launching a new SUV in 2019.

"The new model will fulfil Chevrolet's product line-up in the Thai market," she said.

Chevrolet reported 15,444 units sold in the first 10 months of 2018, up 8.2% year-on-year, mainly from sales of the Colorado pickup (14,107 units, up 10.9%).

At present, Chevrolet ranks 10th in car sales in Thailand.

The brand posted an all-time sales high of 75,461 cars in 2012 before dropping to 56,389 in 2013 and 25,700 in 2014.

In 2016 it reported 14,931 cars sold, down 14.5% from 17,456 in 2015.

But 2017 witnessed sales growth for the first time in five years with 18,772 units sold, up 25.7%.

Ms Piyanuch said 2019 will be another opportunity for Chevrolet to beef up sales.

Chevrolet plans to open showrooms and service centres in all provinces by 2020.

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