B5bn tapped for vehicle testing centre
The long-touted automotive testing centre is poised to get off the ground with the Industry Ministry, in partnership with Thailand Automotive Industry (TAI), committing five billion baht to set up the centre in Chachoengsao province.
All investment will come from the ministry's fiscal budget, according to TAI president Vichai Jirathiyut.
Construction will take four or five years.
According to Mr Vichai, Industry Minister Chakramon Phasukvanich recently said the ministry would seek the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry's approval to use its land in Chachoengsao's Sanam Chai Khet district to develop the much-awaited testing centre.
The land is owned by the Forest Industry Organization.
This will help save the state budget some three billion baht, Mr Vichai said.
"The minister has pledged to push the testing centre project for approval by the cabinet very soon," he said.
"The project should no longer be subject to any delay."
Thailand's automotive industry has long called on the government to establish a regional testing centre aimed at promoting Thailand as an Asean production hub for innovative vehicles.
Vehicles tested at the centre would not require further 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.
The testing centre is the top priority under the TAI's third master plan for 2012-16, aiming to promote Thailand as a production hub for innovative vehicles in Asean.
In October 2012, the TAI sought financial support from the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development (SCRF) for its plan to set up a facility at a cost of eight billion baht, mainly to serve the regional auto industry.
Under the plan, the three proposed locations for the testing centre, which will cover at least 200 rai, are Gateway City, Amata City and Hemaraj industrial estates on the Eastern Seaboard, as they are close to car assembly plants.
But in 2013 the SCRF argued that car makers should share the cost of a testing and research and development centre.
It also instructed the TAI to study the feasibility of getting funding from car companies for the project.
However, Mr Vichai insists that the government should be responsible for the entire investment and divide it into two phases, costing three billion baht and five billion baht.