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Ford’s Thailand Focus

Thai switch: Ford Motor Co has announced a $515 million plant in Thailand for Focus.

Next-generation Focus to gain competitive edge as Ford confirms Thai production

28 Jun 2010

A BETTER-VALUE next-generation Focus built in Thailand appears likely to be Ford Australia’s direct response to Holden’s Australian-made Cruze sedan and hatch.

General Motors has committed to switching production of Australia’s Cruze sedan from Korea to Adelaide early next year, when a locally design Cruze hatchback derivative will also enter production alongside the Commodore at Elizabeth.

Now it seems almost certain that Ford Australia, which announced plans to build the third-generation Focus at Broadmeadows in July 2007 before cancelling them in July last year, will respond by importing a more competitively priced and/or specified Focus from Thailand, which has a free-trade agreement with Australia.

Four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions of the MkIII Focus made their global debuts at the Detroit motor show in January, when the Ford Motor Co said it next Focus would be sold in 122 countries after production started in North America and Europe in early 2012.

At the time, Ford announced just four manufacturing sites for the 2012 Focus – Saarlouis in Germany, Detroit in the US, St Petersburg in Russia and Chongqing in China. Pretoria in South Africa, which produces Australia’s Focus sedan and hatch – and was to have imported the Australian-made Focus – was not listed.

While Ford Australia will not comment on the issue, the question of where Australia’s next Focus will come from appears to have been answered by news late last week that Ford will invest $US450 million ($A515m) to construct a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant to produce the Focus in Thailand from 2012.

The new passenger car plant will have initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, with 85 per cent of production destined for markets outside Thailand. Ford said the new plant would produce the next-generation Focus from 2012 for Thailand and other Asia-Pacific markets, as part of its aggressive expansion strategy in the local and Africa regions.

27 center imageLeft: 2012 Ford Focus sedan and hatch.

The new 750,000 square-metre assembly plant, which will be fully integrated to support body assembly, paint, trim and final assembly, will be at Rayong, where the company already has a joint-venture factory with Mazda, which recently shifted Mazda2 production from Japan to Thailand.

Ford has also committed to producing its latest Fiesta in Thailand for Australia this year, though there is no word on Mazda3 production in Thailand.

Ford, which previously said the next Focus platform will eventually spawn up to 10 individual model derivatives, said the highly flexible new facility will “be capable of producing a diversified range of products in the future”.

The next-gen Focus will be built on the company’s new global C-car platform, which Ford says will eventually underpin up to two million vehicles globally. The (small) C-car segment is the world’s largest vehicle segment and Ford predicts it will account for nearly 28 per cent of global passenger car sales by 2013.

“Today’s announcement is another important step in our aggressive expansion in the Asia Pacific region to meet demand for our world-class Ford products in this fast-growing region,” said Ford Motor Co president and CEO Alan Mulally.

“Globally, we are committed to delivering a full line-up of Ford brand vehicles with best-in-class quality, fuel efficiency, safety, and smart technology that customers want and value.”

Ford said it would buy up to $US800 million ($A915m) worth of local components a year through Thailand's local supplier network, and that the facility has the potential to support up to 11,000 new jobs – including 2200 direct factory jobs.

Ford Asia Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs said the investment underscored Ford’s long term commitment to Thailand and its role as a global production and export hub for Ford.

“The decision to build our new plant was supported by Thailand’s world-class automotive industry, and logistics and export infrastructure,” he said.

“Thailand's commitment to the continued growth of its world-class auto industry has given Ford the opportunity to further leverage the skilled local work force and market expertise, as well as the strategic footprint that we have already established in Thailand.”

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