Land
Rover is to establish a new distribution unit and begin assembly of the Freelander
SUV in Thailand in 2001.

The company took over distribution from the previous importer, Thai Ultimate
Cars, and has restructured its operations in Thailand.

Freelander assembly will begin at the end of the year at the Thai-Swedish plant
in Bang Na-Trat, Bangkok, where Volvo assembles cars.

Volvo Car Thailand’s head office at Hua Mark will also now house the local
Land Rover operation.

Land Rover and Volvo will share back-office functions though their sales channels
will remain independent. A selection of Thai Volvo dealers will be invited to
add Land Rover vehicles to their range.

Reports from Thailand say that Ford intends to extract more potential out of
the plant and to group together its Premier Automotive Group brands.

Ford’s Thai operation is said to want to import Jaguar itself but the reluctance
of current independent distributor CTI Holding to give up its franchise could
hinder that plan.

Ford’s acquisition of Land Rover has also resulted in changes in Malaysia,
where the distributor, Land Rover (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, is trying to increase
its presence.

There are plans to increase and enhance the dealer network, including re-developing
the main Petaling Jaya outlet into a ‘Land Rover Centre’.

This follows success with similar dealer concepts in Australia and the U.S.

Land Rover is planningto sell 850 vehicles this year, a 54% rise over last
year and almost seven times the 1999 volume.

The SUV maker hopes that the high Malaysian price of a 2.5-liter V6 petrol
Freelander ($US288,0000 [$US75,790] because of import duty) can be reduced once
it is assembled in Thailand.

Land Rover Malaysia assembles the Discovery and an Aico application will be
made for intra-ASEAN trade between the two Far East countries at a reduced duty
rate.