Honda has made its plant in Thailand the global hub for the Honda City subcompact car as the new model made its world debut yesterday. Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co said its manufacturing facilities in Ayutthaya would take on a ''parent-plant'' role, leading production of Honda City cars in other facilities around the world and providing a role model in quality, technology and delivery.
The move is a major vote of confidence by Honda in Thailand's automotive production expertise and potential and in its supporting infrastructure.
The company said the decision by its Japanese parent reaffirmed its commitment to making Thailand a world-class manufacturing base.
''Honda takes exceptional pride that Thailand has been chosen to lead the global production of the Honda City,'' said Honda Automobile (Thailand) president Kenji Otaka during an event held to show off the new model.
''It is a major testimony to the advanced technological and manufacturing expertise and capabilities that are firmly in place here,'' he added.
Regionally, the City is also to be built in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China and Pakistan, but all output will be specifically for those domestic markets. The cars produced in Thailand are destined both for domestic sales and export markets.
Since 1984, Honda has invested 21 billion baht in hardware and software in Thailand, reinforcing the technologies and expertise of its facilities in Ayutthaya.
''Through a long-term and comprehensive programme implemented to enhance our core assets, Honda's facilities in Thailand are now ready to assume this parent role,'' said Mr Otaka.
''This move is a vote of trust and confidence in the Thai team to assist and provide technological support for our affiliates in India, China and other countries in this region for the global production of Honda City.''
He said the subcompact segment has tremendous growth opportunities due to rising consumer demand for smaller vehicles that are fuel-efficient, spacious, safe, easy and fun to drive.
He added that one of the emerging global consumer trends, triggered by rising oil prices, is that first-time as well as second-car buyers are now seriously evaluating their daily travel needs. Many are leaning toward compact or subcompact vehicles that cost less to operate and maintain.
''Our market analysis estimates a growth rate of over 50% for the subcompact segment this year,'' said Mr Otaka.
He said domestic demand for the City was expected to reach 35,000 units over the next 12 months and another 24,000 units would be exported to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The new Honda City, which is available in three versions, is equipped with an E20-compatible 1.5-litre engine that delivers 120 horsepower, and is priced from 524,000 to 694,000 baht.