BANGKOK — Ford Motor Co. is investing $900 million to upgrade factories in Thailand that build its Ranger pickup truck and Everest utility vehicle.
Ford, making its largest-ever investment in the operations, plans to nearly double the number of robots at its Thai manufacturing plant and at AutoAlliance Thailand, a venture with Mazda Motor Corp., while $400 million of the investment will go towards its supply chain network.
It will also add a second shift to the Ford plant which will createt as many as 1,250 jobs, bringing its workforce in Thailand to more than 9,000.
In Thailand, Ford said it is able to produce around 270,000 vehicles annually.
About 60 percent is exported Asia-Pacific markets like Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines where its pickup trucks are popular.
“If demand increases in the future, the proportion is adjusted on a monthly basis,” a Ford spokeswoman said, adding that its export market is robust.
The factory upgrades will allow the company to better customize production for vehicles such as open cabs and four-door pickups to match demand.
The move contrasts with the closures of three of its plants in Brazil this year, part of a $11 billion global restructuring and its strategy to achieve 8 percent global operating margins. It is also pulling out of production in India where it has long struggled to make profit.
Thailand is Asia’s fourth-largest auto assembly and export hub, accounting for about 10 percent of the country’s GDP and manufacturing jobs.
Last year, General Motors sold its Thai factories to China’s Great Wall Motor, which has begun producing utility vehicles and plans to make EVs in the country.
Thailand’s state-owned energy firm PTT has said it will invest $1 billion to $2 billion in an EV plant with Taiwan’s Foxconn.