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Honda now built in Bangkok

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    Around 80 per cent of Honda vehicles sold in Australia are now made in Thailand. They include the City, Jazz, Civic sedan, CR-V and Accord.

BANGKOK is the Detroit of Asia.

It's the hub of the newest car making empire in the world and one that supplies a growing number of cars to Australia with a variety of badges including Honda.  This year alone the number of Thai-built vehicles sold in Australia is 96,603 by the end of July, up from 82,656 in 2009.

Honda Australia was the first company to import passenger cars from Thailand, back in 1998, but it has taken another 12 years for the Japanese brand to feel secure enough about Thai-built quality to boast about the products.

So this week Carsguide is part of a visit to Bangkok and Honda's factory at Ayutthaya, 80 kilometres north of the capital, to investigate the cars and quality.  Honda Australia boss Satoshi Matsuzawa says there has “never been any resistance" to the company's cars being built in Thailand because "it’s built by Honda”.

But about 80 per cent of Honda vehicles sold in Australia are now made in Thailand.  They are the City, Jazz, Civic sedan, CR-V and Accord. The Civic hatch is made in the UK and the Accord Euro, Legend and Odyssey are still made in Japan.

Honda is not alone and company spokesman Mark Higgins says “more and more manufacturers are coming here to build cars”.  They include most pick-up trucks sold in Australia, the Mazda2 and - very soon - more small cars Ford led by the next Fiesta, as well as Suzuki.

The Thai-Honda story begins in 1998 with 778 vehicles.  In 2005, the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Thailand and the shift of Jazz production from Japan to Bangkok dramatically increased the exports to 14,071.

In 2007, Thai’s Honda exports to Australia tally 51,424, before dropping substantially during the global financial crisis. This year they are expected to reach 40,197.  But that number is still only a tiny proportion of the total 240,000 annual capacity of the Thai Honda factory.

The plant occupies 851,800 square metres and employs about 5000 Thai staff and 80 Japanese managers. They work two to three shifts a day with two weeks’ holiday a year and free meals provided by Honda.

But working conditions are not idyllic with Thailand’s oppressively hot and humid climate mitigated in the body and frame plant by opening up a whole wall to prevailing winds instead of using airconditioning in an effort to save electricity.

Honda Automotive Thailand Corporation's vice-president, Makoto Morii, says the plant is 50 per cent automated, compared with Japanese factories at 90 per cent automation.  “We use more hand welding because the salary is lower here. Instead of investing in expensive machinery, we can hire more people here," he says.

He also defends the level of human involvement and rates his Thai workers highly.  “In terms of mechanical skill, the Thais and Japanese are of the same skill level. Humans can be more flexible than a robot,” he says.

However, he admits that for the plant to take on production of more complex hybrid vehicles, it will require full automation.  “The factory would have to grow, but we don’t have that plan,” he admits.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 5 comments

  • I have used 1990 HRV (love it) which replaced my 23 year old Civic. Said Civic saved my life when we tangled with a large cow one rainy night. She landed on the roof and the pillars held up and I walked away. If the (Japan built) HRV is as good I am happy. Can't see why Thai built would be any different as long as QC up to scratch.

    Robyn Waller of Northern NSW Posted on 30 November 2012 6:54am
  • We have a 2010 Honda Jazz which is very well put together and has been a reliable and trouble free. Honda doesn't rate very well these days as they are being outclassed by their competition but not in terms of quality from what I've experienced. My Mazda B series ute is also Thai built and was great value for money and it too has been faultless over the last few years.

    Dave of Perth Posted on 26 August 2010 3:06am
  • Never been any resistance? My mother almost died driving your 2010 Thai built Civic because the airbag deployed for no reason. Oh and what response we got back from the guy who claims that he worked for Honda for 20 years? "Sue Honda if you want, but you will have no chance of winning it. Guaranteed" Great way to manage your ex royal customers wink

    ex royal honda customer Posted on 25 August 2010 1:46am
  • I'm sorry you had a dud Vince. I have an 09 Accord, the fit, finish and quality is the best I've ever experienced. By contrast my 09 FG Falcon ute, while an accomplished vehicle has been back to the dealer 6 times for repairs under warranty. I bet Vince's Civic would have been a dud no matter where it was built.

    Daniel of Adelaide Posted on 24 August 2010 11:46pm
  • Satoshi Matsuzawa have you got your head up your a**? You obviously didn't get my letter about my Thai made 05 Honda Civic that was poorly built. ?never been any resistance" - yeah right, it's any wonder Honda is ranked poorly against other manufacturers for most popular cars. Support the local workforce and buy Australian.

    Vince Posted on 22 August 2010 1:40pm
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