Japanese car maker Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) insists it still plans to raise production at its Thai factories despite Thailand not yet joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
A total of 12 Pacific Rim countries including Japan signed the TPP on Oct 5.
Yesterday, the parent company and Mitsubishi Motors (Thailand) celebrated the 4-millionth car rolling off the assembly line in the Laem Chabang Industrial Estate on the Eastern Seaboard.
On hand for the ceremony were Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang, Japanese Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima and high-ranking Mitsubishi executives.
Mitsunori Kitao, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the Thai unit, yesterday predicted the 5-millionth car would be made in 2018.
Of total production, 2.8 million cars have been exported to 150 markets worldwide, with the rest sold domestically.
Mitsubishi Thailand took charge of local distribution, manufacturing and export in the country in 1987.
Before that, its distributor was Sittipol Motor Co, with United Development Motor Industry Co in charge of Mitsubishi assembly since 1964.
At present, Mitsubishi Thailand operates three production facilities and one engine factory in the Laem Chabang Industrial Estate.
The first factory, opened in 1992, makes passenger cars and passenger pickup vehicles (PPVs), the second factory (1996) makes pickup trucks and PPVs and the third factory (2012) makes eco-cars.
Founded in 2008, subsidiary MMTh Engine Co makes 502,000 petrol and diesel engines per year.
"The facility in Thailand remains the largest production site for Mitsubishi, controlling 30% of the group's output," said Tetsuro Aikawa, president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. "It will be the main facility in Asean exporting completely knocked-down vehicles to Mitsubishi operations in the Philippines and Indonesia next year."
He said Mitsubishi was not worried about the TPP since the Thai factories could ship the Mirage eco-car to North American members without tariffs.
The Tokyo-based parent will soon introduce another Thai-made eco-car, the Attrage, to North America in the near future.