Toyota and its parts and component suppliers plan to invest at least around $US700 million to make Thailand its global production base for pickup trucks, diesel engines and minivans, Associated Press reported.

“The global network for production of pickup trucks, multipurpose vehicles and major vehicle components outside of Japan is a crucial part of Toyota’s global strategy,” Toyota managing director Akio Toyoda said at a news conference on Thursday in Bangkok, according to AP.

AP said that, after the upgrade, the value of vehicle and diesel engine exports from Toyota’s Thai units is expected to reach $US1.2 billion per year, and Thailand will also benefit from about 10,000 new jobs and development of its skilled worker base.

According to AP, Toyota Motor Thailand currently produces 90,000 pickup trucks and multipurpose vehicles annually and exports 10,000 of those units, mostly to countries of the Oceania region, including Australia.

By mid-2004, the company will more than double production to 200,000 units a year, exporting half of them to more than 80 countries and territories in the Middle East, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, AP added.

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AP said that another unit, Siam Toyota Manufacturing, would serve as a global production base for diesel engines.

Production of direct injection diesel engines will rise to 240,000 units per year from the current 150,000 units, AP said.

AP said that, at the same time, original equipment manufacturing parts for pickup trucks and multipurpose vehicles produced by Toyota Thailand, Siam Toyota and other domestic suppliers would be exported to Toyota’s manufacturing plants in nine countries around the world.