ALTHOUGH General Motors (GM) Corp is the worlds largest automobile company, the presence of its products on Malaysian roads is minimal, compared with those from other established American and Japanese car makers.
General Motors (Thailand) Ltd managing director and executive director (Asean operations) William S. Botwick said the company was keen to make significant penetration into the Malaysian automobile market.
The local automobile market is the largest in the Asean region, with annual sales of more than 400,000 units.
Although General Motors and Chevrolet are long and established brand names in other parts of the world, we are relatively new in Malaysia and have not become household names yet, he told Asean journalists during a General Motors Chevrolet Optra media ride and drive tour in Pattaya, Thailand.
Botwick said General Motors would stress on brand-building exercise for General Motors and its Chevrolet range of vehicles which would spearhead the company's entry into the Malaysian market.
The company will also offer its vehicles at competitive prices and ensure availability of good aftersales services and spare parts.
DRB-Hicom Bhd wholly-owned subsidiary Hicomobil Sdn Bhd is the distributor of Chevrolet cars in Malaysia. The models marketed in Malaysia are the Aveo hatchbacks, the Optra and Lumina four-door sedans, and Nabira multi-purpose vehicles.
Besides the Chevrolet vehicle range, General Motors' other vehicle brands include Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Hummer, Holden, Oldsmobile, Opel, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Vauxhall.
The Aveo for the local market will be sourced from South Korea, the Lumina from Australia and the Optra and Nabira from Thailand.
General Motors Thailand Ltd's vehicle assembly centre is on a 190-acre site in Pattaya's Rayong industrial estate, which is also known as the Detroit of the East, and has attracted major automotive players such as Ford, Mazda and TRW to set up operations.
The Thai manufacturing plant is modelled after General Motors' most advanced manufacturing plant in Eisennach, Germany.
The plant was built at a cost of US$650mil and started the production of the Zafira multi-purpose vehicle in December 1999. The plant assembled its 100,000th Zafira in January.
Besides the Zafira, the General Motors plant also manufactures the Isuzu I-190 pick-up truck and the Chevrolet Optra sedan.
The assembly plant consists of seven main buildings, the administration block, service block, press shop, body shop, paint shop, general assembly shop and utility building.
The plant has a workforce of 2,350 and the capacity to produce 247 vehicles a day on a single shift, and 342 on two shifts.
The plant is the first and only automotive assembly plant in Thailand that is able to manufacture passenger cars for export to Europe and Japan. The two markets are one of the world's most quality-demanding markets for imported cars.
As such, Botwick said, vehicles shipped to the Malaysian market from the Thai plant would be assured of high quality and workmanship standards.
The Thai plant has set the country's safety example by achieving 20 million work-related hours without lost-time injury, a record achieved not only in Thailand's automotive plants but also in over 30 General Motors' assembly centres worldwide.
The Rayong industrial estate is also home to eight of the world's top 10 automotive suppliers, nine Toyota group of companies and 65 automobile component manufacturers.
Hicom Teck See Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn Bhd has set up its wholly-owned subsidiary Hicom Automotive Plastics (Thailand) Ltd in Rayong to supply plastic automotive components to the General Motors plant.
Among the components supplied are plastic bumpers, radiator grilles, trunk lid handles and fuel filler doors for General Motors' Chevrolet Optra sedans.
Hicom Teck See Manufacturing Malaysia chief executive officer Khairudin Datuk Yusoff said Hicom Automotive Plastics' certified vendor status from General Motors would enable it to supply plastic automotive components to other plants around the world.
We are now exploring to supply more types of automotive components to General Motors in Thailand as well as in other parts of the world, he said.
DRB-HICOM has a 51% stake in Hicom Teck See Manufacturing and Teck See Plastics holds the remaining 49%.
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