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Ford Motor backs Thailand over Indonesia, for now

More than 90 percent of Ford's production for the 10 countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations is in Thailand,where it formally opened a new,million manufacturing plant on Thursday. The U.S. auto maker has small operations in Vietnam and the Philippines.Everyone in Thailand is trying to operate at maximum capacity and beyond now because the demand in Thailand and across ASEAN for products is very high. All of the markets are running strong, Ford ASEAN President Peter Fleet told reporters in Bangkok.

Many carmakers are eyeing Indonesia as an alternative production base and Ford is studying its options there, but the lack of an established supply base means its focus will remain on Thailand for now.The Thai market is still slightly larger than Indonesia, although we expect the Indonesian market to be bigger than the Thai market shortly, said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa.We think Indonesia has great potential and is an important market for us with the strong growth last year with the Fiesta,he added.Fords Asia-Pacific region lost in the fourth quarter of last year, mainly due to flooding that devastated Thailand.

Although Fords joint venture with Mazda Motor Corp in the eastern Thai province of Rayong suffered no damage,it was forced to suspend production in October due to disruption to the supply of components.Hinrichs said the factory was now close to its pre-flood production level for the Fiesta model,while output of the Ranger was in line with plans.Neither the flooding nor political unrest in recent years has dented Ford's commitment to Thailand,where it opened a second plant in Rayong southeast of Bangkok.

Driver and Vehicle Services stops unauthorized use of motor vehicle records,taking its total capacity in Thailand, including an existing plant in the same area, to 445,000 vehicles. It will focus on the production of the Focus and Echo Sport models.

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