"Diesel engines play a very important role in GM's global advanced-propulsion strategy. The first application of the engines here will be in the next-generation Colorado pickup truck," said Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of GM, who attended yesterday's ceremonial pouring of the first cement pillar during an event attended by more than 400 guests.
The new factory is part of the GM's strategy to increase production in Asia, as its home market is declining. GM's sales in America in July were down by 32 per cent on year, as light-vehicle sales dropped to 12.5 million from 15.3 million last year.
The proportion of GM's total production accounted for by Asia has moved up from 5 per cent to 25 per cent. The main reason is the stellar growth in China, India and Southeast Asia. GM invests more than $1 billion in China every year.
A new production facility will also be opened in India, which will boost annual production from 80,000 units to 220,000.
Scheduled to become operational in 2010 with a production capacity of 100,000 engines and employing 340 employees, the new Thai plant will be located next to an existing one in Rayong.
The new engines - for 2.8- and 2.5-litre trucks - |are most likely to be able to run on biodiesel. GM officials said the engines would meet Euro 4 standards by 2013.
"We are now moving towards more fuel-efficient vehicles. In the past two years, 18 out of 19 models launched in the US have been sedans or crossover types. It's a similar case in Asia, with more focus on sedans and crossover vehicles.
"In 2010, the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car, will also be launched in the US. The worldwide trend is a move away from fossil fuels," said Wagoner.
Chevrolet is the only company in Thailand that has a bi-fuel pickup on sale. The Colorado CNG (compressed natural gas) uses a mixture of 65-per-cent CNG and 35-per-cent diesel.