Ford’s Rayong plant open

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The new Ford plant at Rayong has had its official opening and production has commenced of the Ford Focus and derivatives from the Focus platform, such as the small SUV Kuga.

The new Ford Thailand Manufacturing plant will have a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year, boosting the annual Ford Thailand production to 445,000 vehicles.

Thai built Ford Focus. Thai built Ford Focus.

The new Rayong plant is capable of producing up to six models from the one Focus platform, with the latest Kuga compact SUV going into production in Rayong alongside the Focus from 2013.

Export Focus vehicles have been mainly coming from Ford’s Saarlouis plant in Germany, but by September, exports for Australasia will be coming from Thailand.

For Australia, this allows Ford to take advantage of Australia’s free trade agreement with Thailand, which will reduce the import price by five percent.

Ford Australia already gets its Australian-developed Ranger pick-up from Thailand, where it is produced for global markets alongside the related Mazda BT-50.  These are not produced in the new plant, but are manufactured in the Ford-Mazda joint-venture Auto-Alliance plant that is also set to get a $27 million expansion to lift production by 20,000 units a year.

The Auto-Alliance plant also produces the Ford Fiesta for Australia, alongside the similar Mazda2.  Initially the Thai Mazda2 was exported to Australia before Mazda Australia switched its sourcing back to Japan due to supply constraints in Thailand as a result of the flooding stopping production of the parts suppliers, even though the Auto-Alliance plant was not inundated.

Ford Asia, Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs said Ford remains committed to Thailand as a production hub; however, Hinrichs has also announced a major expansion of Ford’s Chinese manufacturing operations, with a plan to double production there from the current 600,000 units a year to 1.2 million by 2015.