By Kap Maceda Aguila
THE 60th ANNIVERSARY of the founding of Toyota Motor Thailand Company (TMT) — the manufacturing and distribution subsidiary of the Japan-headquartered car maker — was marked with much fanfare, perhaps to further underscore its significant role in realizing the aspirations of the brand. Members of the Thai government led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy Supattanapong Punmeechaow, TMT officials and suppliers, a delegation of international media, and key executives of other Toyota distributors and suppliers in the region showed up at the sprawling Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok. Undoubtedly, the added draw to the event was news that Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda himself would make an appearance.
Addressing some 1,500 attendees, TMT President Noriaki Yamashita narrated, “What began here in 1962 has grown into a family of 275,000 Toyota Group employees and partners. Thanks to all of you, Toyota Thailand now enjoys great importance within Toyota as well as the entire automotive industry around the world.”
According to Mr. Yamashita, Toyota Thailand now corners the country’s market with 33% share (compare that to our own Toyota Motor Philippines which, year to date, accounted for nearly half [49.75%] of vehicle sales per the latest joint report of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. [CAMPI] and Truck Manufacturers Association [TMA]).
TMT is a key production hub, ranking fourth just behind Japan, China and the US. “We are also proud to be the largest vehicle exporter in Thailand today,” added the executive.
Meanwhile, Mr. Toyoda expressed his gratitude to TMT and the Thai people in general. He also paid tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (or Rama IX) for, among other things, being “the only global leader who expressed his belief in Toyota and questioned the truth of what was being reported (during the recall issue of 2010, where Mr. Toyoda was required to testify before the US Congress).” He stressed, “Toyota will always be extremely grateful for the kindness of His Majesty and the Thai people, and I would like to thank them today from the bottom of my heart.”
The Toyota chief also announced a partnership with the largest private conglomerate in Thailand, the Charoen Pokphand Group (or CP Group), in an effort to achieve carbon neutrality or a state of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions in the country. He promised the two firms will strive toward this “by rethinking the way (they) deliver consumer goods through zero-emission technology like fuel cell trucks and by making driving logistics more energy-efficient (through) connected technology.” CP Group has a diverse portfolio of business interests ranging from agriculture to e-commerce. Furthermore, it operates one of the largest network of convenience stores and supermarkets.
Toyota and CP Group will build on the latter’s “current efforts to make… hydrogen from biomass like chicken manure.” This will power a fleet of fuel cell trucks — to be deployed under the deal — utilizing the clean-burning gas. “As we work to achieve a sustainable future, I also believe we need to take a holistic approach to carbon neutrality, from how we source materials, to how we manufacture cars, to what powertrains we put in them, and how we dispose of them. We must remember that carbon is the real enemy not a particular powertrain and that we can’t reach carbon neutrality on our own. It must be a group effort and include other industries beyond automotive,” said Mr. Toyoda.
The TMC-CP alliance will also look into making logistics operations in Thailand more energy-efficient using connectivity technology. The partnership is poised to pull in, according to Mr. Toyoda, other members of the Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies Corp. (CJPT), including Daihatsu, Suzuki, Isuzu, and Hino. “We brought our competitors together to unite and strengthen our efforts to build on this new opportunity for CO2 reduction,” he stressed.
For his part, CP Group Senior Chairman Dhanin Chearavanont averred in a statement, “I am delighted that both companies have an opportunity to jointly consider collaboration toward carbon neutrality in Thailand and welcome any companies that share the same carbon-neutrality ambitions.”
Mr. Toyoda also unveiled two pickup concepts, the IMV 0 and Hilux Revo battery electric vehicle — both promising to be more environment-friendly than conventional internal combustion engine-powered vehicles.