AFG looks at the “perfect world”

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The dynamic and rapidly growing Automotive Focus Group (AFG) hosted a very interesting and provocative seminar and networking at the Nova Platinum last weekend.

The principal speaker was Hugh Vanijprabha, the executive director of TEBA (Thai European Business Association).  His presentation was an overview of the Thai Auto Industry with reference to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) scheduled for 2015.

Hugh Vanijprabha Hugh Vanijprabha

After joining TEBA in 2010, Hugh has continued to develop industrial cooperation between Thailand and Europe with the key objective being to help facilitate existing and future business growth between the two regions, focusing on various industrial sectors including Automotive, Aerospace, Food, Pharmaceutical and Green Technology.

To be able to become involved in those lofty ideals, Hugh has had continual engagement with the government as a Senate sub-committee and public offices and has developed a TEBA business platform for all parties to share thoughts and business concepts among all stakeholders from government, academia, individual firms and private organizations.

Hugh was assisted by mini-presentations from many speakers from different sections of the auto industry, including Alain Deurwaerder (MD Ducati Thailand) who spoke on the urgent need for vocational training in Thailand before the industry is stifled through lack of trained personnel; Matt Cox (customs and duty manager Triumph) who referred to the incredibly difficult situation with Thai Customs; and Uli Kaiser (president of the AFG) who spoke on automation as the key to overcome the labor shortages.

Members of the dynamic and rapidly growing Automotive Focus Group. Members of the dynamic and rapidly growing Automotive Focus Group.

It became obvious, quite early in the piece, that Hugh has a most unenviable job in pushing for Thailand to be a global automotive hub, let alone be the leader in ASEAN.  There are just so many government ministries involved that he has a Hydra on his hands!  He referred to government policies being handed down as ‘position papers’, saying “these just don’t work.”

Mention was made of Thailand’s chaotic fuel situation where we have a choice of 10 different types of fuel, with no end in sight.

It was a most stimulating evening, and discussions went long into the night, over liquid libations and some excellent choices in food around the Nova Platinum pool.

As his closing remarks, Hugh warned that Thailand has to look carefully at where it wants to be in the next 5-10 years.  His final words were “The government has to have the right mind-set.”

But does it?