Mazda plans to allocate around one billion baht (RM137.1 million) to upgrade its factory in Thailand next year, reports the Bangkok Post. The AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) plant in Rayong is a joint venture with Ford that produces 270,000 units a year. With half ownership, Mazda has capacity of 135k units at AAT.

According to Mazda Sales Thailand president Chanchai Trakarnudomsuk, the investment will go towards the upgrading of the jig and die tooling system at AAT, which currently rolls out the Mazda 2, Mazda 3, Mazda CX-3 and Mazda BT-50 pick-up truck, both for domestic consumption and export.

The BT-50 is coming to the end of its life cycle soon and once that happens, Mazda will no longer produce trucks at AAT. This is because the BT-50, currently a sister of the Ford Ranger, will be twinned with the Isuzu D-Max instead. Production of the next-gen BT-50 will therefore move to Isuzu’s factory. The third-gen D-Max surfaced in Thailand in October.

Mazda’s sales in Thailand is expected to hit the target of 65,000 units this year, which is 7.8% down from 2018. It would be the first decline in five years for the Hiroshima carmaker in the Land of Smiles. Chanchai puts this down to macro external factors such as sluggish exports, the baht’s appreciation and the trade war between the US and China.

Today’s BT-50 is a twin of the Ford Ranger, but the next gen will be based on the latest Isuzu D-Max

“Mazda’s sales dipped this year for many car models, running out for the new changes, so some models were not available in a couple of months. Thailand’s car market saw a decline in the second half of 2019, so Mazda has to work with dealers on sales strategies in the final month,” he said.

He added that looking forward, the worst case scenario for the Thai auto market in 2020 is total industry volume of 900k, but he’s confident of sales touching one million units for the third year in a row.

“The measures are not only for grassroots people, but also to stimulate overall economic engines such as consumption and investment. The central bank’s measures to control auto loan approvals from financial institutions will be postponed from a tentative plan to take effect in early 2020, so there is no worry for the lending sector,” he said, adding that Mazda will introduce at least two new models in Thailand next year.

Mazda has spread its production eggs in two ASEAN baskets – the CX-5 and CX-8 SUVs are made in Kulim, Malaysia and Thailand gets its supply from us. Our Mazda 2 is from AAT Rayong while the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 are imported CBU from Japan.

GALLERY: Mazda 2 Hatchback and Sedan facelift, Thai spec