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2013 Ford Focus to be produced in surprising location

Ford’s new state of the art plant in Thailand will produce the 2013 Focus and other vehicles

Automakers across the globe are building vehicles in the local market for the local market. This strategy works well by minimizing currency fluctuations and the employment of local workers allows the automaker to play politics effectively. Just as Hyundai builds its US cars here (in Alabama), Ford builds cars for the Asian market in Asia. Thailand is the world’s 12th largest automaker nation despite its size. It has recently become a hot spot of manufacturing for Southeast Asia with 6 of the world’s largest automakers moving or expanding operations in the nation. Ford is now significantly expanding its operations there.

Huge Employment Expansion
The new Ford facility will employ 11,000 workers directly and also expand employment in the area because local suppliers will expand to meet the need. Spending almost half-a-billion US dollars to create the facility, Ford’s new investment is large, even for the region. Eventually eight Ford models that Ford calls “One-Ford Vehicles” will be made in the plant, but the first model will be the 2013 Ford Focus for local markets, which Ford calls the ASEAN region. One-Ford refers to the vehicles having mostly interchangeable components with Ford vehicles world-wide. The idea being that there is an economy of scale benefit when making one car for the planet rather than having individual designs all over the globe with different parts. The new plant has an estimated annual capacity of 150,000 units. In a press release, Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa said “The opening of this new, world-class facility is the latest example in our aggressive growth plan for this region, which represents Ford’s largest industrial expansion in half-a-century. The world-class One Ford vehicles produced here will be part of our plan to launch 50 new vehicles and powertrains in Asia Pacific and Africa by mid-decade.”

Local Challenges
Thailand does come with its own unique set of challenges. Flooding in past years has caused production delays for many manufactures in Thailand. The pain was not limited to automotive manufacturing either. Apple and Cannon also suffered delays. Cultural issues also create challenges. Many new car customers are first time buyers in Fords dealerships and did not grow up in a car culture. To help with this Ford has a Global Driving Skills For Life Program which helps new drives understand and operate their new vehicle. As a driver who took a driving skills class after 25 years behind the wheel, this author can attest to the benefits of such a program.

Thailand is quickly becoming the manufacturing hub for vehicles in Southeast Asia and Ford’s half-billion dollar expansion there will reinforce this dominance.