By opening its first plant in Asia outside Japan, Tan Chong International Limited (TCIL) extends its automotive business and Subaru brand within the region.
The company ventured into an initial investment of more than $150 million. The 100,000-square meter factory, located at Bangkok’s Ladkrabang Industrial Estate, is expected to deliver over 6,000 Subaru Foresters in its first year of operations to meet the demand in Southeast Asia.
The Tan Chong Subaru Automotive (Thailand) Limited (TCSAT) is a joint venture between Hong Kong-listed TCIL and Japan’s Subaru Corp. TCIL, holds a 74.9% stake through its subsidiary, TC Manufacturing and Assembly (Thailand) Limited. Its headquarters is in Singapore. For its part, Subaru Corp. holds the remaining 25.1%.
“This is truly a milestone for us: to be able to build Subaru cars ourselves in Thailand,” said Glenn Tan, deputy chair and managing director of TCIL. “This strategic long-term move will allow us to manage our supply chain better, widen our product lineup, localize better, and be less dependent on supply from Japan. We will be able to respond and meet consumer demand for Subaru vehicles better in the region and perhaps even beyond in the future.”
The fifth-generation Subaru Forester, the first completely knocked-down (CKD) model to be assembled at TCSAT, will be distributed in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam through Motor Image Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of TCIL. It is reported that 100 cars have already been delivered to customers in Thailand. Motor Image also reported record sales figures at the Bangkok International Motor Show in March.
Like the made-in-Japan model, the Subaru Forester assembled in Thailand provides ruggedness and space for the whole family. The Subaru Forester features all four Subaru core technologies. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive sends power to all four wheels to give drivers a reliable drive in even the harshest conditions. The Boxer Engine enables a lower center of gravity for better stability and handling. The EyeSight Driver-Assist Technology alerts drivers to unanticipated risks and helps prevent accidents. The Subaru Global Platform elevates overall safety and performance with a new body and chassis design. It was given a Good Design Award by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion last year.
TCSAT employs a team of Japanese staff to ensure that production standards and processes meet the same stringent levels as in Japan. Also, high-performance robotics are used at several stages of the assembly process to ensure superior quality and zero defects. At the painting line, the pre-treatment, electrical deposits, primer, and top coat are applied automatically. The key welding points of the car body and the sealer application for glass components are also automated to achieve total consistency. This is part of the technology and skills knowledge transfer which Subaru has committed to.
Quality control and correction processes take place during and throughout the assembly process. This is complemented by regular production audits by Subaru. Some of the unique features of the plant include a test track, which is specially built to assess the condition of every car before they leave the factory. The robust quality control procedures ensure that every car produced at TCSAT is safe, comfortable, and reliable.
A mix of highly skilled workers and experts from Japan and Singapore are working together to ensure the quality of each unit produced at the plant. TCSAT also aims to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its staff. A committee oversees the overall safety standards of the plant and proactively identifies and isolates potential risks. External consultants trained all members of the management staff on local regulations and global practices.