Singapore-based and Hong Kong-listed motor group Tan Chong International has opened its first Subaru assembly plant.
The 100,000 sq m facility in Bangkok's Ladkrabang Industrial Estate is also Subaru's first plant in Asia.
Built with an initial investment of 5 billion baht (S$212 million), the plant, which will have an eventual capacity of 100,000 cars per year, will produce more than 6,000 Subaru Foresters for South-east Asian markets in its first operating year.
The facility is a joint venture between Subaru Corp and Tan Chong, which holds a 74.9 per cent stake.
Thailand's status as an automotive hub and trade agreements within Asean make sourcing Thai-made cars economically compelling for many motor firms.
The plant can produce up to four different models, but is starting with the fifth-generation Forester in a completely knocked-down format.
The cars will be sold in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia by Tan Chong's Subaru distributor Motor Image Group.
Although Singapore will continue to get its cars from Japan, Tan Chong said it has not ruled out including Singapore in its list of markets for cars from its Thai plant in the future.
About 100 cars have already been delivered to customers in Thailand, Tan Chong said yesterday in a statement.
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.
TAN CHONG INTERNATIONAL MANAGING DIRECTOR GLENN TAN
Tan Chong managing director Glenn Tan said: "From distribution to dealerships and after-sales (services), 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."
The facility includes a test track, built to assess the condition of the cars before they leave the factory. It employs more than 400 local workers, who are supported by expatriates from Japan and Singapore.