Car companies worldwide are winding down their production operations in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Major automakers in the U.S., Europe, and South America are shutting down production lines. Japanese and Korean automakers are looking to shut down manufacturing as well, while local assembly plants have ceased as all of them are located in Luzon; mostly in Laguna.
But one important thing to note is that there hasn't been much word about automobile factory shutdowns in the country that supplies the majority of Philippine market volume: Thailand.
Thailand is effectively the “Detroit” of South East Asia; undeniably the major regional auto manufacturing hub. Toyota, Ford, Honda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet (up until the end of the year), Ford, and more have big factories here, and they export to the ASEAN Free Trade Area; including us.
We've been asking our regional contacts with various brands, and most have been fairly quiet, except for one: Ford.
Our various contacts with the regional offices of the U.S. automaker told us that they are evaluating the possibility of shutting down the factories temporarily given the current situation.
Ford gets vehicles from two factories, the first is Ford Thailand Manufacturing (FTM) which is owned by Ford. The other plant is AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT), which is a joint venture with Mazda.
The majority of the Philippine units come from AAT as it is the factory tasked to produce the Everest SUV as well as the left-hand drive double cab Ranger units. FTM is the factory that produces the remaining Ranger model (single cab, crew cab, etc), including the Ranger Raptor.
If Ford does announce a shut down in Thailand, the primary reason will, of course, be about employee health. Thankfully there has been no word on any confirmed COVID-19 cases at the factories.
The other reasons that Ford (and other Thai-based automakers) would shut down temporarily are related to parts and sales. The supply of parts has been largely affected by the outbreak. Sales, both regionally and globally, have plummeted as more and more countries implement quarantines. As to what the numbers are, we don't know yet.
"Can't imagine demand is high under these conditions when no one knows what is going to happen next,” said one of our contacts at Ford.