Hino Motor is building a new diesel engine production line at its Chonburi plant in Thailand, according to Takeo Saito - president of local distributor Hino Motor Sales Company. Engine assembly at the new facility is scheduled to begin in mid-2010 and will replace imports from Japan.

The locally-made engines will use parts sourced from within the ASEAN region, will allow Hino to raise local/regional content in its trucks to over 40% - a critical level which will allow the company to export CBUs to other ASEAN markets at 0-5% import duty.

Only Isuzu Motor currently makes engines in Thailand for trucks other than one-ton pickups. Hino's Chonburi plant currently makes light trucks of up to 3.5 tons GVW - mainly for domestic sale. Last year it began exporting to India following the free trade agreement between the two countries.

Truck sales in Thailand, excluding one-ton pickup trucks, fell by 4.8% in 2009 to 17,044 units, according to Saito-san, while local Hino sales amounted to 6,923 - down 3.2%. For 2010, he expects the overall market to grow by over 11% to around 19,000 units - of which 8,000 units would be Hino trucks.

Tony Pugliese