TC Manufacturing and Assembly Thailand (TCMA TH), a subsidiary of Singapore-based, Hong Kong-listed Tan Chong International Limited (TCIL), together with Subaru Corporation (formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries), has officially launched TCIL’s first assembly facility in Thailand.

The facility, which covers around 100,000 square metres in the Ladkrabang Industrial Estate, is operated by a joint venture company – Tan Chong Subaru Automotive (Thailand) Limited, or TCSAT – with TCMA TH owning a majority share of 74.9%, while Subaru Corporation holds the remaining 25.1%.

Located in the Ladkrabang Industrial Estate, TCSAT is Subaru Corporation’s third factory in the world after its Gunma site in Japan and Subaru of Indiana Automotive in the United States. The facility was built with an initial investment of five billion baht.

The plant utilises high-performance robotics at several stages of assembly, including paint application on vehicles, key welding points of the car body and sealer application for glass components. Strict quality control and correction processes are also enforced throughout the assembly process, with regular production audits by Subaru Corporation and random internal inspections. There’s also a purpose-built test track on site for vehicle testing.

A majority of the components like body panels are brought in from Japan, but others are sourced from local and international vendors. According to the company, to comply with the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement, 40% of the components (by value) are sourced from within the region.

The fifth-generation Subaru Forester is the first model to be assembled at TCSAT, with the unit #1 rolling off the assembly line on August 15, 2018. Production of left-hand drive vehicles has already started here, with right-hand drive cars set to roll off the assembly lines from May this year. The cars made here are for distribution in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia through the Motor Image Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of TCIL – the company believes trade agreements in ASEAN will back this initiative.

From a Malaysian context, the previous-generation Forester was assembled under contract at Tan Chong Motor Assemblies in Segambut, which currently makes the XV for local and export markets. With TCSAT up and running, the latest Forester could arrive as a fully-imported model from Thailand when it is launched here. It was previously reported that both Thailand and Malaysia facilities will run in parallel to serve the region, but the model split has yet to be announced.

As the first plant outside Japan to produce Subaru cars in Asia, TCSAT has the potential to hit a capacity of 100,000 units yearly to meet demand across Southeast Asia, although it will only output around 6,000 Foresters in its first year of operation. The plant is capable of producing up to four different models, and there’s room for expansion within the area if needed.

“This is truly a milestone for us, to be able to build Subaru cars ourselves in Thailand. From distribution, dealerships and aftersales, we are now also manufacturing Subaru cars,” said Glenn Tan, deputy chairman and managing direction of TCIL.

“This strategic long-term move will allow us to better manage our supply chain, widen our product line-up, localise better and be less dependent on supply from Japan. We will be better able to respond and meet consumer demand for Subaru vehicles in the region, and perhaps even beyond the region in the future,” he added.