With all the hoopla over China's auto industry, Thailand, which is more known among Westerns for its tourist industry than manufacturing capabilities, quietly made more than one million vehicles last year.
The country is Asia's third largest exporter of vehicles after Japan and South Korea, with much of its success attributed to its government's relaxed attitude towards foreign investors. Unlike China, automakers such as General Motors or Toyota are not required to partner with a domestic firm. Low production costs makes it simple to mass-produce vehicles, primarily trucks, to export to countries like South America and Australia. Interestingly, a study by Japan shows Thai-built vehicles have better quality than those built in China or India.

Thai industry is diversifying, however, realizing a potential weakness in only manufacturing trucks. Toyota has made the country the center for its International Multi-purpose Vehicle, a single platform on which it will base many of its vehicles. The country is increasingly manufacturing and selling car parts and kits. Finally, the government is approaching the U.S. to negotiate the 25 percent duty it currently imposes on all foreign trucks.

[Source: International Herald Tribune]

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