THAILAND: Tata plans manufacturing base
Tata Motors on Friday said it was looking to expand its auto sales in Southeast Asia and planned to use Thailand as a manufacturing base.
Ajit Venkataraman, chief executive officer of Tata Motors (Thailand), a 70% owned joint venture of Tata Motors, told Reuters the company was considering launching a range of products to tap into healthy demand in the region.
"It's a very important step for us," Venkataraman told the news agency in an interview about the joint venture's 1.3bn baht ($US38m) investment in Thailand to build up to 35,000 one-tonne pickup trucks a year over the next 3-5 years.
"It's a very attractive market in terms of size, and the supplier base is very good," he told Reuters, referring to Thailand's pickup truck market. "Once we have established the business here, we will be also looking at export potential."
"We have a wide range of products starting from cars all the way to heavy trucks and we're evaluating every possiblity," he said.
The new pickup trucks, which will carry the Tata logo, will be assembled at its Thai partner Thonburi Auto Assembly's plant in suburban Bangkok, with 80% of the trucks to be sold in the domestic market, the report said.
"We hope to start sales in the first quarter of next year," Venkataraman told Reuters. "We hope to get a respectable market share in the first three years of operation."
But the news agency noted that the latecomer to the highly contested pick-up truck Thai market will have stiff competition from big players such as Isuzu and Toyota [plus Mitsubishi and a Ford-Mazda JV; all four use the country as a global pickup production hub].
"It's an extremely competitive market, with most players having operations in Thailand for decades," Venkataraman told Reuters.
"We're trying to keep our ear on the ground and try to listen to customers and hopefully we will be able to give a product which would make Thai customers happy."
Tata plans to appoint up to 25 dealers when it launches products in the first quarter of next year, he said.
The news agency noted that the joint venture, the latest investment of the Tata group in Thailand, where it has a steel subsidiary, Tata Steel (Thailand), comes as post-coup political uncertainty worries other foreign direct investors.
"We have a long term view on Thailand," Venkataraman said. "ASEAN is important," he said of the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations. "Thailand is even more important. It's a large market and also has got a lot of potential to grow."
Demand for commercial and passenger cars in the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations was 1.5 times that of India, where demand was more than one million, he told Reuters.