Tata Motors is considering Thailand and Indonesia as candidates for a new assembly plant worth about Bt10 billion to serve the Asean market.
Tata Motors (Thailand) chief executive Ajit Venkataraman said the new plant, which will be able to assemble between 50,000 and 60,000 vehicles per annum, was aimed at cashing in on the coming Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will be fully effective in 2015. A final decision on where to build the plant will be made within a year and a half.
Ajit said the India-based company saw strong potential for its passenger cars, especially compact vehicles, for which sales were showing substantial growth. Tata’s Thailand unit recently announced that it would bring some units of the company’s new city car, the 600cc Tata Nano, which is manufactured in India, into the Thai market on a trial basis. The Nano has not yet been launched officially here as the company is studying the market and the requirements of local consumers.
“One main reason that we have not yet marketed compact vehicles seriously in Thailand is that the country has set very high tariffs for completely built-up units imported from India. To be competitive, we need to set up our own assembly plant in the country or [elsewhere] in Asean,” Ajit said.
“Thailand is our first business location in Asean, and we have now appointed Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant to assemble Tata Xenon vehicles. The policy of Tata for Thailand is to focus on commercial vehicles, and lately the company officially launched the two latest Tata Xenon Giant Heavy Duty models.
“The company has also announced that large Tata Daewoo commercial vehicles from South Korea will be marketed in Thailand,” he said.
Abhichet Sitakalin, vice president for sales, marketing and customer care, said the Tata Xenon Giant Heavy Duty was a one-tonne pickup truck designed to carry heavier weights than normal for this class. The new pickup is offered in two models, one with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine with intercooler priced at Bt519,000 per unit, and the Xenon Heavy Duty CNG Plus with a new 2.1-litre engine that runs on natural gas for vehicles, priced at Bt569,000.
“The two new pickup-truck models will serve more market needs, as now Tata has a total of six models, including for heavy-duty purposes,” Abhichet said.
The company’s sales in the 2012 fiscal year achieved 8,000-9,000 units, compared with 5,600 units in the last fiscal.
Sompong Pholjitcharoon, director for large commercial vehicles of Tata Motors (Thailand), said the market integration under the AEC would encourage the role of Thailand as the land bridge of the region for road transport from Singapore to southern China and from Myanmar to the Gulf of Thailand and Vietnam. This will create higher demand for large commercial vehicles. As a result, the company has to import Tata Daewoo heavy trucks from Korea to serve market needs in Thailand.