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by Tim Beissmann

High global demand for the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 has encouraged the two manufacturers to ramp up production of the all-new utes.

A $US27 million ($26 million) investment from Ford and Mazda into their AutoAlliance Thailand (ATT) manufacturing joint venture will boost production by 20,000 units annually, taking total utility capacity at the Rayong-based plant to 140,000 per year.

It will see the plant upgraded with more robotic equipment and tools to help increase the speed and output of the production lines. The higher capacity will come into effect from next month.

The latest investment takes Ford and Mazda’s total joint spend on the facility to close to $US2 billion ($1.9 billion) since operations began in 1995.

Ford ASEAN president Peter Fleet said the new investment reinforced the brand’s long-term commitment to Thailand as a global production and export hub, and Mazda senior managing executive director Yuji Nakamine said the added volume would help the company meet “exceptionally strong demand” for the BT-50.

All Ranger and BT-50 utes sold in Australia are produced at the AAT plant in Thailand, not far from the production sites of the top-selling Toyota HiLux and all-new Holden Colorado. Both models were launched in Australia in the second half of last year after being jointly designed and developed down under.

In the first quarter of 2012, the BT-50 outsold the Ranger in our market (2755 vs 2402). The BT-50 4×4 easily accounted for the Ranger 4×4 (2108 vs 1566), although the Ranger 4×2 proved more popular than BT-50 4×2 (836 vs 647). Both models trailed the HiLux in the 4×2 segment (2281) and the Nissan Navara in the 4×4 segment (5876).

Read CarAdvice’s review of the Ford Ranger.

Read CarAdvice’s review of the Mazda BT-50.