Political unrest could force Toyota to consider cutting production in Thailand and shift investment dollars away from the turbulent nation.
The Japan-based car maker is poised to spend more than 20 billion baht ($691 million) to boost its manufacturing capacity in Thailand by 200,000 a year (roughly 25 per cent) over the next three to four years
Protesters have targeted the Thai Government over the past couple of months, however, forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to close ministries and try to shut down the capital.
The government has now declared a 60-day state of emergency as the protest escalates. Ms Yingluck has refused to resign and an election has been called for February 2.
Toyota’s Thai president Kyoichi Tanada admitted continued unrest could affect economic growth and vehicle production levels, potentially putting future investment in jeopardy.
“Our new investment in Thailand may not happen if the current political crisis goes on longer,” Tanada told Reuters.
“For new foreign investors, the political situation may force them to look for opportunity elsewhere. For those that have already invested, like Toyota, we will not go away. But whether we will invest [further] or not, we are unsure.”
Thailand’s loss may prove to be Australia’s gain, with Toyota Australia currently presenting its case before Toyota head office in Japan to secure the contract to produce the next-generation Camry from 2017/2018 – a deal that would sure up the presently tenuous future of its local manufacturing operations.
Exports made up more than half of the 850,000 vehicles produced by Toyota in Thailand in 2013, with 430,000 supplied to overseas markets including Australia. From February, Toyota Australia will begin importing the new Toyota Corolla sedan (pictured above) from Thailand, joining the Thai-sourced HiLux ute.
Toyota plans to increase exports from Thailand to 445,000 in 2014, and up the ante further over the next few years.