Mazda, Ford Open Plant In Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. opened a new $500 million passenger car plant in Thailand, a move aimed at expanding their production capacity and market share in Asia, they said Monday.

The plant in the eastern seaboard province of Rayong is a joint venture between the two companies to produce the Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta compact cars, they said in the joint statement.

It will increase the annual production capacity at the AutoAlliance Thailand joint venture manufacturing facility to 275,000 vehicles from 175,000, according to the statement. The cars will be sold domestically in Thailand and exported to Southeast Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Southeast Asia is a "critical component of our overall growth strategy in Asia," said David Alden, Ford's president for Southeast Asia and Japan.

Thailand is already a major production and export center for pickup trucks. Its passenger car production is dominated by Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda.

Ford Motor Co. is the only one of the Detroit "big three" auto companies that has managed to stay out of bankruptcy during the global recession.

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