AFG debates the future

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The Automotive Focus Group (AFG) showed last weekend that it is truly a forward looking organization, with a panel debate on pressing subjects affecting the automotive industry.

The panelists were Mike Diamente (Dana Spicer), Ramesh Ramanathan (Visteon) and Frank Weiand (BMW) with Richard Jackson as the moderator.

The perennial problem of skilled labor was the first topic, with all agreeing that the current emphasis on holding university degrees and no real trade schools produces a disparity in the make-up of the work force.  Inducements to stay with one employer were necessary with packages to include transport required.

(L to R) Richard Jackson, Mike Diamente, Ramesh Ramanathan, and Frank Weiand discuss pressing subjects affecting the automotive industry.(L to R) Richard Jackson, Mike Diamente, Ramesh Ramanathan, and Frank Weiand discuss pressing subjects affecting the automotive industry.

A discussion on wages provided some differing opinions.  Ramesh felt that wages were too high, compared to India and China, resulting in the Nissan March being produced there for export.  This was not the feeling shared by Mike Diamente or Frank Weiand who felt that Thai wages were still very low on a world scale and Thai workers are very efficient to make up for the differences between India and Thailand.

Another interesting topic was on the effectiveness of the BOI, which was heading in the direction of wanting high end technology, but all felt that the English language abilities (or lack of it) needed addressing.  Frank Weiand pointing out that on a survey of 54 countries with English as a second language, Thailand was number 53!

Mike Diamente was happy to admit that he was pro Thailand, a country where making money was a virtue and he admired the resiliency of the Thai culture in meeting the new problems.

When directly asked about the performance of the current Thai government, Ramesh said that the generally populist movement was not surprising, considering that this is similar to many governments in the world.

The AEC, due for 2015, was not going to be such an earth-shattering event in the panel’s opinion because its rules are non-enforceable.  The biggest competitor to Thailand was going to be Indonesia, but all felt that it would be many years before Indonesia caught up with the Thai infrastructure.

Following on from the debate, the AFG members began a networking event above the Beach Club of the Pullman Pattaya Hotel G, with congratulations being in order to the panel, moderator and AFG Vice President Frank Holzer for a well organized meeting. Frank can be reached by email [email protected]