The plan by General Motors to close five North American assembly plants next year and cut up to 15,000 jobs as part of a major restructuring programme does not involve its operations in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reports.
The restructuring plan, which will involve plants making slow-selling or end-of-line passenger car models (US consumers are gravitating towards SUVs and trucks) is to help the biggest American carmaker focus on autonomous and electric vehicles. The headcount cut could amount to as much as 8% of GM’s global workforce of 180,000 employees.
According to Sean Poppitt, director of communications for GM Southeast Asia, GM’s Rayong plant in Thailand continues to be a manufacturing hub for Chevrolet pick-up trucks and SUVs, plus Duramax diesel engines. “The Rayong plant has 1,900 employees without any impact from the parent firm’s policy,” he said.
GM’s Southeast Asia business has been restructured before. The carmaker entered Thailand in January 2000, and later established two factories in Rayong at a cost of US$1.4 billion – a vehicle assembly plant with annual production capacity of 180,000 units, and a powertrain factory with annual capacity of 120,000 units. Output from Thailand is exported to ASEAN, Oceania, the Middle East, and North and Central America.
In February 2015, GM announced a strategic transformation plan to restructure its Thai operations, and in the process withdrew itself from the second phase of the Thai government’s eco-car programme. It saw 500 job cuts and the discontinuation of Chevy Sonic, Cruze and Captiva production. Today, Rayong makes the Colorado pick-up truck and its sister Trailblazer SUV.
At the same time, GM closed its plant in Bekasi, Indonesia, which produced the Spin MPV. With that, Rayong became its sole manufacturing hub in the region, alongside a partnership assembly plant in Vietnam.
While not in the position to challenge Thailand’s market leaders, Chevrolet’s Thai sales are higher compared to last year. In the first 10 months of 2018, the brand sold 15,444 units, up 8.2% year-on-year. The rebound started in 2017, when sales grew for the first time in five years (18,772 units, up 25.7%). The company is studying the feasibility of launching a new Chevrolet SUV in Thailand next year, the Post report mentions.
In Malaysia, GM is yet to announce its new local Chevrolet partner, after Naza Quest ceased to be the brand’s distributor from November 15. “Chevrolet is here to stay in Malaysia and we will be announcing our new distributor partner as soon as possible,” GM Southeast Asia general director Vanchana Unakul said last month.