According to the Bangkok Post, Toyota Motor Thailand Co, the country's largest vehicle maker, has begun to make advanced preparations to expand its Samrong assembly plant in Samut Prakan and shift all production of pick-up trucks from Japan to Thailand.

This is despite apparent reservations from its Japanese parent, which remains undecided about its investment plan.

The Samrong facilities are now assigned to make only pick-up trucks while those at Gateway Industrial Park in Chachoengsao make only cars.

The report says that Ryoichi Sasaki, Toyota's president in Thailand, said some months ago that the 27-billion-baht relocation project was still in place and he had asked the Board of Investment (BoI) to consider the proposal. He also said the project was in the final stage of being assessed by the Japanese parent company.

But the Bangkok Post says that vice-president Suthi Chanwimaluang, who is overseeing the new plan, has declined to specify the investment cost of the expansion of the pickup truck plant and its relocation from Japan to Thailand.

Toyota will triple its annual production capacity of pickup trucks to 150,000 units in 2004. The additional output will be exported to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and other non-US major markets.

The report added that when asked when Toyota Motor Corporation would officially relocate pickup truck production to Thailand, Paiboon Waikwamdee, another vice-president, said: ``Take it easy, you will know sooner or later.''