BANGKOK, Thailand: In a move that aims to further expand its presence in Southeast Asia, Tan Chong International Ltd. (TCIL), the distributors of the Subaru brand in the region, recently unveiled its first Subaru assembly plant in Ladkrabang Industrial Estate in Bangkok.
“This is truly a milestone for us, to be able to build Subaru cars ourselves in Thailand. From distribution, dealerships and after-sales, we are now also manufacturing Subaru cars. This strategic long-term move will allow us to better manage our supply chain, widen our product line up, localize better and be less dependent on supply from Japan. We will be better able to respond and meet consumer demand for Subaru vehicles in the region, and perhaps even beyond the region in future,” said Glenn Tan, deputy chairman and managing director of TCIL.
The sprawling facility is a strategic collaboration between TCIL, holding a 74.9-percent stake, and Subaru Corp. of Japan, which holds the remaining 25.1 percent. The Ladkrabang assembly plant is the first plant outside of Japan that fully produces Subaru vehicles for the Southeast Asian region. With an initial investment of five billion baht, the plant targets to produce 6,000 Foresters during its first year of operation. The cars would be distributed in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia by Motor Image Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of TCIL. Some 100 cars have already been delivered to customers in Thailand. Motor Image also reported record sales figures at the Bangkok International Motor Show in March, largely contributed by strong consumer interest in the Subaru Forester.
Global manufacturing standards
The Thailand assembly plant also employs a team of Japanese staff to ensure that production standards and processes meet the same stringent levels similar to that in Japan. In addition, high-performance robotics would be used at several stages of the assembly process to ensure superior quality and zero defects. At the painting line, the pre-treatment, electrical deposits, primer and top coat are applied automatically. The key welding points of the car body and the sealer application for glass components are also automated to achieve total consistency.
Despite the humidity, quality control and correction processes take place during and throughout the assembly process. This was evident during a guided tour of the facility, as Subaru Thailand officials explained the step-by-step process in manufacturing and assembly of a Subaru vehicle. Some of the unique features of the plant include a test track, especially built to assess the condition of every car before it leaves the factory. The robust quality control procedures ensure that every car produced at Tan Chong Subaru Automotive Thailand (TCSAT) is safe, comfortable and reliable.
The plant has a compliment of 400 highly-skilled local workers, with key expatriates from Subaru Japan manning the delicate sections of the assembly process. According to Tan, a committee oversees the overall safety standards of the plant, and proactively identifies and isolates potential risks. Personal protective equipment are worn by all staff and visitors at designated areas. All management staff are trained by external consultants on local regulations and global practices. To further promote staff health and well-being, the canteen serves nutritious Thai and Japanese meals. Leisure areas, such as a futsal field, cater to staff recreation needs.
Like the made-in-Japan model, the Subaru Forester assembled in Thailand provides ruggedness and space for the whole family. The Subaru Forester features all four Subaru core technologies. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive sends power to all four wheels to give drivers a reliable drive in even the harshest conditions. The Boxer Engine enables a lower center of gravity for better stability and handling. The EyeSight Driver-Assist Technology alerts drivers to unanticipated risks and helps prevent accidents. The Subaru Global Platform elevates overall safety and performance with a new body and chassis design. It was given a Good Design Award by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion last year.
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