"Despite Thailand's political turmoil, we are not putting off operation of the second plant," said Hiroyuki Yoshimoto, president of Nissan Motor (Thailand). "In fact, operations will start one month earlier than scheduled."
Nissan announced in late 2012 its ambitious plan to invest 11 billion baht in a Thai facility, and nearly 10 billion baht was spent on its second factory. The rest was spent on the Nissan Technical Center South East Asia (NTCSEA), the third testing centre outside Japan and an R&D hub for Asean that opened last August.
Nissan acquired 150 rai next to its existing factory on Bang Na-Trat Road in Samut Prakan province to build the second plant, focusing on pickup truck production with an initial output of 75,000 vehicles a year. The new factory is set to open on July 3, and the company plans to double production there to 150,000 units over the next few years.
Nissan's existing plant makes 220,000 pickup trucks and passenger cars a year, and once the second plant is running at full capacity annual production capacity will reach 370,000 vehicles excluding the 60,000 Navara pickup trucks now built at Mitsubishi's factory at Laem Chabang in Chon Buri.
Mr Yoshimoto said Nissan will continue producing the Navara for export only at the Mitsubishi plant to cope with strong global demand. But he added that the company was poised to stop operations at the Mitsubishi plant and move production to the new plant once global demand shrinks.
The company is due to deliver the new NP300 Navara to Thai customers in August, with retail prices and export plans announced on July 3. Nissan expects sales for the NP300 Navara in the Thai market will number 3,000 units per month.
For this fiscal year starting April 1, Nissan aims at local sales of 100,000 units, up from 74,000 units in fiscal 2013.
Nissan forecast Thailand's overall domestic sales to reach 900,000 to 1 million vehicles this year compared with 1.33 million vehicles in 2013.
"Nissan is very concerned about shrinking domestic sales, but we will try to stimulate the market with new models to boost our market share to double digits," said Mr Yoshimoto. Last year Nissan claimed a 6.5% share of the Thai market.
Nissan Motor Co developed a medium-term plan to sell 500,000 vehicles a year in the grouping of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam and it hopes to reach a 15% market share for the region in fiscal 2016.
For fiscal 2012, Nissan sold 260,000 vehicles in Asean for a 7.2% market share. It has factories in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam in addition to Thailand.