Thailand’s economy has shown record impressive growth over the past decade. The combination of a sound economic foundation and renewed growth makes this vibrant Southeast Asian economy fertile ground for future automotive investments.
The automotive industry is a vital sector for the country’s economy as it contributes greatly to exports and trade inflows. It is Thailand’s second-largest export industry, after computer parts and components. Thanks to continuous government-led support, automotive has evolved into an industry with vibrant foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) competition and an extensive network of supporting industries. Thailand’s long experience with automotive manufacturing has equipped the country with a comparatively low-cost yet experienced labor force for the sector.....
Thailand has approximately 690 Tier 1 auto parts suppliers and 1,700 Tier 2 and 3 suppliers. More than half of the Tier 1 suppliers are foreign-majority companies. Of the top 100 auto parts manufacturers in the world, 50% have factories in Thailand. The country’s manufacturing base is strong enough to supply all of the necessary parts, from engine parts to interior and body parts.Major multinational automotive industry leaders in Thailand include Toyota Motors, Isuzu, Honda Automobile, Nissan Motors, General Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Suzuki Motors, BMW Manufacturing, Tata Motors, Ford Motor and Mazda.
Big Industry Drivers
In early 2012, many Japanese automotive enterprises announced their intentions to continue investments in Thailand. After the devastating flood in Thailand at the end of 2011, up to 80% of Japanese investors still have full confidence in investment in Thailand, based on the growth prospects of the country’s economy.
Toyota continues to invest US$273 million in 2012. Most of the budget will be spent on a new plant in Chachoengsao’s Gateway City Industrial Estate and an existing plant in Samutprakarn, to produce fuel-efficient cars at an annual capacity of 100,000 units. The additional facilities are expected to start production in July 2013.
Suzuki Motor has invested US$250 million to build its first factory for the production of fuel-efficient cars.Isuzu will increase its investment by US$217 million to build a new plant in the Gateway City Industrial Estate, with annual capacity estimated at 200,000 units. The plant is expected to open in October 2012.
Thai Summit, one of the largest auto parts makers, has allocated US$167 million to expand its factories in Rayong and Chonburi provinces. Ford Motor has opened a US$450 million plant in Thailand, with capacity of 150,000 units per year, expanding its export capability to meet rising demand in neighboring countries.
Jatco, a Japanese maker of automobile transmissions, invested US$255 million in a new plant to produce continuously variable transmission (CVT) units in Thailand. It is the first company to produce CVTs in the country. The plant is planned to open in mid-2013.
Automotive Industry Overview
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Thailand´s automotive industry export valie in 2011 was US$17 billion, the second largest export value after computer parts and components. Thailand´s exports last year benefited from a free – trade agreement (FTA) that went into effect with major economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the same period, auto parts imports totalled nearly US$6.5 Billion.
The major factors that attract investors to enter the Thai automotive market include the large pool of skilled labour at affordable cost and the abundant supply of rubber. The country is also moving toward production of more fuel – efficient vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electrical and fuel cell – powered models, along with the introduction of special reduced excise tax rates for those vehicles
In 2011, 1.46 million vehicles were manufactured in Thailand, ranking Thailand 14th among the world’s automotive manufacturing countries. According to the Thai Automotive Institute, production is predicted to reach 2.2 million units in 2012, 50% produced for domestic sale and 50% for export.
The top 10 destinations of Thai automotive exports accounted for 63% of exports worldwide. Australia and Indonesia are the major destinations of Thai-manufactured automotive products.
Thailand’s Auto Parts Industry
Demand for Thailand-made automotive parts is growing. There are approximately 1,800 automotive suppliers already in the country, of which 709 are OEMs. All of the major Japanese automakers have opened manufacturing sites in Thailand. Many of their parts manufacturers, such as France’s Valeo, Germany’s Bosch, US-based TRW, Britain’s GKN and Japan’s Denso, Mitsuba and Mitsubishi, have followed suit to serve their customers.
According to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, the quality of automotive parts in Thailand is the highest among ASEAN countries. Local manufacturers supply 80-90% of the parts used in pickup truck assembly, and as much as 70% of those for passenger cars. Moreover, the country produces nearly 100% of the parts used in the assembly of motorcycles.
The majority of Thailand’s automotive parts exports are OEM parts (US$4,757 million), comprising 75% of all exports. This is followed by engines (US$889 million) at 15% and spare parts (US$551 million) at 9%.
Electronics have ascended to an important position within the automotive industry. The growth of electronics continues across automobile systems with the increasing focus on performance, safety, comfort, efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles. The
global demand for automotive electronic systems is estimated at US$187.1 billion in 2012. The market forecast is US$287.6 billion in 2018.
Innovation in electronic systems is driving today’s automotive parts industry. The emerging Asian market will play a central role in this growth, both as a producer and a consumer. In addition to being the site of much automotive production, Asia is one of the regions with the strongest demand for automotive electronics.
Most of the automotive electronics used in cars produced in Thailand are imported from Malaysia and Japan. The market value of automotive electronics in Thailand was approximately US$6.3 billion in 2011. Given the market size, the current limited
number of automotive electronics producers in Thailand presents an excellent investment opportunity. Local suppliers could capitalize on the sizeable local demand. Such opportunities and the considerable investment in R&D make Thailand an attractive place for investors.
There are many other reasons why the Thai automotive industry is an attractive base for investors in automotive parts production. Of the more than 3,000 parts and components in a typical vehicle, a sizeable portion is still sought from overseas. Opportunities exist for foreign suppliers to manufacture electronic fuel injection systems, substrates for catalytic converters, CVTs, electronic stability controls and regenerative braking systems, among numerous other products. More R&D, design and testing centers are also needed, even though major players Yamaha, Bridgestone, Maxxis and Michelin are already operating such facilities in Thailand.
Hi-Tech Vehicle Parts and Components
Projects in high-tech vehicle parts and components manufacturing are considered priority activities by the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI), which means they are exempt from machinery import duties and from corporate income tax for eight years, regardless of location.
The Ministry of Energy supports fuel-efficient transportation through a natural gas vehicle (NGV) initiative. This initiative includes the introduction of over 10,000 natural gas-powered taxicabs, natural gas subsidization through PTT Public Company
Ltd., a reduced import duty on NGV tanks from 17% to 10% in 2012, and a reduced import duty on NGV control system parts and components from 35% to 10%.
Eco-car parts continue to receive incentives to promote the growth of the eco-car market locally and abroad. The incentives will be applied exclusively to materials that cannot be produced locally. Duty reduction will be granted up to 90% for two years with annual review. The measure is intended to help eco-car manufacturers by lowering their production costs and reducing their burden in sourcing parts that are not available locally or produced in Thailand.
Although Thailand has a strong focus on pickup trucks, passenger cars receive similar favorable treatment in manufacturing promotion. The requirement for the promotion of passenger car manufacturing includes a minimum capacity for the approved models of 100,000 units per year within five years and a minimum investment, exclusive of land cost and working capital, of US$500 million (THB 15 billion). Projects that meet these criteria are eligible for a five-year corporate income tax holiday and exemption from import duties on machinery, regardless of location.
The Ministry of Finance is offering three-year exemption on import duties of foreign auto parts used to make vehicles E85-ready. The ministry has also reduced the excise tax on cars using E85 to 22%, 27% and 32%, depending on engine size.
Big-Bike, 4-Stroke Engine Motorcycles (Over 500cc)
Under the new scheme, a minimum annual capacity will not be required, whereas previously it was set at 50,000 units/ year. In addition, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership, compared to a minimum of 60% Thai ownership previously required. Regardless of the plant location, big-bike motorcycle manufacturing activities will be eligible for exemption from import duties on machinery.
Thailand has been dubbed the “Detroit of Asia” because of the consistent government policies that promote automobile assembly and automotive manufacturing capacity.
Nearly every Japanese carmaker has manufacturing facilities in Thailand, as do major U.S. automotive firms such as Ford Motors and General Motors, and the German companies Daimler (maker of the Mercedes-Benz) and Bayerische Motoren Werke (better known as BMW).
Promising Investment Site
As the country’s economic performance has been strong, many of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers have production facilities based in Thailand. The growth prospects of domestic demand for locally manufactured auto parts are high. The country’s strategic location as a gateway to Asia makes for easy access to regional markets. All of these factors contribute to the evident opportunities for foreign investors to enter the market.
In addition to the policies on tax reduction, there are non-tax incentives that the Thai government offers to manufacturers of vehicles and vehicle parts, and for automotive R&D and testing. These include land ownership rights for foreign investors, permission to bring in foreign experts and technicians, and work permit and visa facilitation for foreign expat employees. The government also does not impose export requirements, local content requirements, location requirements or foreign equity restrictions on manufacturers.
Competitive Skilled-Labor Supply
Apart from 100,000 workers in the brand automotive factories, Thailand has a robust 1,700 factories and more than 420,000 skilled workers in the automotive supporting industry. Thai laborers have the advantage of high skill levels and quality compared with most countries in the region.
Auto Parts Clusters
To foster greater productivity and efficiency in the industry, the government has encouraged the development of auto parts clusters. Proximity between firms and their input suppliers allows for not only enhanced communication but also improved flow of goods and lower costs.
Thailand’s Trade Liberalization
Thailand has been a WTO member since January 1995, and has made steady progress in recent years toward trade liberalization, as well as restructuring its public sector and strengthening its financial system. The country’s many FTAs include terms advantageous to local auto parts producers. In particular, the agreement with ASEAN opens doors to a market of 680 million people across the association’s member countries. Tariffs on auto parts exported to ASEAN nations have been eliminated entirely since 2010.
Benefits brought about by the prime market network of Thailand will be further heightened with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. The AEC will serve as a massive single market that is fully integrated into the global economy with equitable economic development. The economic bloc will open new doors to manufacturers by transforming ASEAN into a region with the free movement of goods, capital, services, investment and workforce.
Excellent Government Support
The Thai government’s vision is for Thailand to be the automotive production hub of Asia, and has thus emphasized a clear, consistent and continuous international car policy for multinational investors as the central theme on automotive development. It is also the BOI’s policy to promote liberalization and transparency, providing equal treatment to all market players. The government has created the most attractive business environment in the region for the automotive industry, and has prepared essential resources for every type of automotive business, including development of basic infrastructure, a quality labor force, and strong upstream and supporting industries.
Attractive Investment Incentives
The BOI offers a range of fiscal and non-tax incentives for investments based on location. Tax incentives include exemption or reduction of import duties on machinery and raw materials, and corporate income tax exemptions and reductions. Non-tax incentives include permission to bring in foreign workers, own land and take or remit foreign currency abroad. Additionally, foreign businesses are entitled to 100% foreign ownership.
For further information:
Thailand Board of Investment: www.boi.go.th
Thailand Automotive Institute: www.thaiauto.or.th
Thai Automotive Industry Association: www.taia.or.th
Thai Autoparts Manufacturers Association: www.thaiautoparts.or.th
ASEAN Supporting Industry Database: www.asidnet.org