Honda has begun construction of a new regional R&D centre near Bangkok, Thailand, with a view to strengthening its automobile component sourcing activities in the region.

The US$55m Asia-Oceania facility is scheduled to be completed in 2009 and will also assume product planning and development activities for the region, according to Fumihiko Ike, CEO of Asian Honda Motor  – the company’s Thai-based Asia-Pacific regional headquarters.

Thailand is fast becoming an important link in Honda’s global operations and will play an increasing role in helping to maintaining the group’s global competitiveness. Ten years ago, the company established the Asian Parts Centre – a major distribution hub of replacement parts for global markets located near Bangkok.

Honda is currently building a second car plant in Thailand next to the existing facility in Ayutthaya. The facility is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2008 with a capacity of 120,000 cars per year – doubling current capacity.

Separately, distributor Siam Nissan Automobile said it would add the Tiida (Versa in the US) sub-compact car to its line-up, taking on segment leaders such as the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz (Fit). The model will be priced at just over THB500,000.

Tony Pugliese