Japanese makers like eco-car idea

Japanese carmakers are interested in Thailand's eco-car project, which is aimed at producing smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, says Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister Kosit Panpiemras.

On his first trip abroad since assuming his post in September, Kosit met yesterday with executives of Nissan Motor, Honda Motor and Mazda Corp in Tokyo, to discuss the next phase of their investment in Thailand's auto and auto-parts industries. He plans to meet bosses from Mitsubishi Motors, Suzuki Motor and Toyota Motor today.

Kosit said after yesterday's meeting that both sides wanted to intensify cooperation in auto and auto-parts manufacturing in Thailand, creating a win-win investment situation.

In the wake of last year's high oil prices, the government plans, with its eco-car project, to promote smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. The Board of Investment (BoI) will give special investment incentives to auto-makers who meet both the government's criteria and international standards.

The eco-car project requires a five-year investment and a manufacturing proposal with plans for auto assembly, engine, parts and components manufacturing and a sourcing plan. Production must also reach 100,000 units by the fifth year and beyond.

Eco-cars must meet international environmental and safety standards. These include fuel consumption of no more than 5 litres per 100 kilometres, carbon dioxide emissions of no more than 120 grams per kilometre and safety standards for front and side impact that comply with the specifications of the UN Economic Commission for Europe or higher.

Kosit said the government would hold further talks with Japanese carmakers about the new incentives and investment plans. First, however, auto and auto-parts manufacturers must submit initial proposals to the BoI by the end of this month. Then the two sides will consult and renegotiate, and a final outcome will be reached by the end of next March.

"In the first phase of the eco-car project, the best proposal will be awarded investment incentives by the government," said Kosit. In a later phase, the government will offer incentives to any investor who can meet its benchmark standards.

Kosit is also inviting Japanese investors to produce passenger-car engines, fuel-injection pumps, transmissions, differential gears, injection nozzles, electronic control units, turbochargers, substrates for catalytic converters, anti-lock braking systems and equipment for cars powered by natural gas. Not enough of these components are produced in Thailand.

The industry minister has also discussed the creation of a "small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) university" in Thailand with representatives from Japan's Organisation for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation. The proposed SME university will serve the expansion of Thailand's small- and medium-sized industries, Kosit said.

Japan and Thailand will also intensify cooperation in human resources, in order to produce engineers and IT experts to staff the expanding auto and related industries.

Kosit announced that Thai agencies would be joined by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japan External Trade Organisation to open a new university next year to be called the "Thailand-Japan Institute of Technology". It will produce engineers, IT specialists and other highly skilled workers.

"We're not worried about new amounts of foreign direct investment, but we will try to make this investment benefit Thais the most," said Kosit.

Japan has played a major role in pushing Thailand to become the automotive hub of Asean. Last year, Thailand's vehicle production reached 1.13 million units, making it the world's 14th-largest auto producer.

From : the nationmultimedia
By : PLA
Date : Dec 1, 2006

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