Tan Chong International Limited (TCIL) has officially unveiled its first Subaru assembly plant. Situated in the Lad Krabang Industrial Estate near Bangkok, this facility is Subaru’s first plant in Asia (outside of Japan); it has another plant in North America. The 100,000 square metre plant is established with an initial investment of THB5 billion.
The Lad Krabang plant – Tan Chong Subaru Automotive (Thailand) Limited (TCSAT), is a joint venture between Hong Kong-listed TCIL and Japan’s Subaru Corporation. TCIL, headquartered in Singapore, holds a 74.9% stake through its subsidiary, TC Manufacturing and Assembly (Thailand) Limited, while Subaru Corporation holds the remaining 25.1%. The decision was made to site it in Thailand due to Thailand’s status as an automotive hub, with the presence of numerous Japanese automakers, established component suppliers and strong localisation ability. Further, trade agreements in ASEAN, will allow the cars to be competitively built and exported to meet the region’s growing demand.
The plant will assemble both right-hand and left-hand drive models to cater to the various ASEAN market. Currently, it is starting off with a production capacity of 6,000 units annually on a single shift, gradually increasing it in stages. The entire facility is future-proofed to cater to an annual production of 100,000 units.
The first model to be assembled in TCSAT is the fifth-generation Subaru Forester, for distribution to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia by Motor Image Group, the wholly-owned subsidiary of TCIL. It has so far delivered about 100 vehicles to customers in Thailand. At the same time, Motor Image also reported record sales figures at the recent Bangkok International Motor Show, largely due to strong demand for the Subaru Forester.
“This is truly a milestone for us, to be able to build Subaru cars ourselves in Thailand. From distribution, dealerships and aftersales, we are now also manufacturing Subaru cars. This strategic long- term move will allow us to better manage our supply chain, widen our product line up, localise better and be less dependent on supply from Japan. We will be better able to respond and meet consumer demand for Subaru vehicles in the region, and perhaps even beyond the region in future,” said Mr Glenn Tan, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of TCIL.
TCSAT employs a team of Japanese to ensure that production standards and processes adhere to the same stringent levels followed by Subaru Corporation in Japan. The plant is semi-automated with high-performance robots at various stages of the assembly process to ensure superior quality and zero defects. The robots are responsible for about 21% of the welding, while sealer application for glass areas are also automated for better consistency. At the paint shop, the pre-treatment, electrical deposits, primer and top coat are applied automatically. This is part of the technology and skills knowledge transfer which Subaru Corporation has committed to.
Some of the unique features of the plant include a test track, specially built to assess the condition of every car before they leave the factory. A benefit to having an assembly plant in this region is that it can cater to local conditions such as the intensity of rainfall which affects weather sealing and NVH quality. Quality control and correction processes take place during and throughout the assembly process. Detailed spot checks are also done on random vehicles off the production line to ensure consistency. This is complemented by regular production audits by Subaru Corporation, with vehicles selected to be sent for quality and crash testing in Japan. The robust quality control procedures ensure that every car produced at TCSAT is safe, comfortable and reliable.
Additionally, TCSAT employs more than 400 highly-skilled local workers. Besides staff from Japan, there are also staff from Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan to share their technical and management expertise. All management staff are trained by external consultants on local regulations and global practices. TCSAT also has a committee to oversee overall safety standards at the plant and identify and isolate potential risks to staff welfare and work environment. To further promote staff health and well-being, the canteen serves nutritious Thai and Japanese meals. Leisure areas, such as a futsal field, cater to staff recreation needs.
The fifth-generation Subaru Forester will be launched soon in Malaysia, and will be the first model in the country to feature Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist safety technology. The Forester was recipient of the Good Design Award by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion last year.