Honda Motor Co has opened its R&D unit and testing centre in Prachin Buri, aiming to use the facility as a regional hub for Honda vehicles sold across Asia and Oceania.
The Tokyo-based parent firm held an opening ceremony yesterday for the completion of Honda R&D Asia Pacific, witnessed by Science and Technology Minister Atchaka Sibunruang, Japanese Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima and high-ranking Honda executives.
Construction of Honda R&D Asia Pacific started in November 2015. The company was granted Board of Investment privileges for an investment of 1.7 billion baht on 500 rai of land next to Honda's second plant at Rojana Industrial Park.
The campus has eight test courses to simulate various road conditions and types of terrain. The total length of the test courses is eight kilometres, spanning an area of 800,000 square metres.
According to Shinji Aoyama, president and chief executive of Bangkok-based Asian Honda Motor, which handles Honda's exports from Thailand, the new R&D unit and testing centre is the second such facility outside of Japan. The first, in the US, was founded in 1975.
Under the administration of Bangkok-based Honda R&D Asia Pacific (HRAP), the centre will be used for automobiles and motorcycles, with various vehicle tests for handling, stability and overall performance carried out on regionally developed products for Asia and Oceania.
The R&D unit and testing centre may also be used to test models made from other regions in the future.
"Thailand has been at the centre of Honda's manufacturing and exports in Asia and Oceania, as well as an important base for R&D operations," Mr Aoyama said.
Founded in 2005, HRAP works in product planning, styling design, engineering design, materials research and quality control.
Last year, HRAP in Thailand had a hand in developing about 20% of 700,000 Honda's vehicles sold in Asia and Oceania.
The number of Honda vehicles developed by HRAP in the two regions is expected to rise to 50% over the next five years.
Honda expects vehicle sales to rise to 800,000 units in Asia and Oceania this year and to 1 million units by 2021.
In Thailand, Honda posted vehicle sales of 61,428 units in the first half, up 14% year-on-year, spurred by five new models launched since January: City, Civic Hatchback, CR-V, Mobilio and Jazz.
Honda is confident in its 2017 sales forecast of 120,000 units this year, up 12%.