Aussie car parts maker Futuris enjoys success in Thailand

Futuris Automotive’s presence is growing strongly in Thailand, with the company hoping to sell into Japanese supply chains.

Futuris, a maker of car seats and interior trims, has doubled its output in Thailand for 18 months, operating on the country’s eastern seaboard at Hemaraj, an industrial estate sometimes referred to as the “Detroit of The East”.

''Since 2005, we have embarked on an internationalisation strategy,” David Chuter, the executive general manager of Futuris in Thailand, told Fairfax Media. Futuris opened a second plant in Hemaraj last week.

“We see this enormous growth potential. We don't have to be greedy, just a fair share of this is going to get us into millions of products a year.”

The Australian reports that there are 800 employees at the site, and this will reach 900 by the year’s end.

Thailand’s population is 654 million, and it made nearly 2.5 million cars in total last year, roughly half of these exported. 170,000 of these were imported by Australia. The Australian car industry produces less than a tenth of Thailand’s output.

The Australian editorialises that the growth of Futuris is an example of an Australian company using Australian innovation and harnessing the opportunities provided by a thriving Asian market.

“The future for Australian manufacturing companies will not be in mass manufacturing products for Australia's market of 23 million people,” claims the newspaper.

“If the Futuris story is an example of an Australian company doing something right, it is about using Australian know-how and design skills to expand by finding astute market niches overseas, especially in Asia.”

Futuris is attempting to sell to Japanese car-makers. ''We have been invited to quote [for Mazda], we are down to the final stage,'' Chuter told Fairfax.

Investment in Thailand’s market  is encouraged by a “seven-year tax holiday” offered to car makers by Thailand’s Board of Investment.

Futuris has been up for sale since last August by its parent company Elders.