'Detroit of Asia'
Proposed govt auto testing centre faces rival plan
Private investor sure of earlier start
The Office of Industrial Economics (OIE) in cooperation with the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) will soon propose a vehicle research and testing centre worth Bt8.05 billion to the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development (SCRFD).
The proposal coincides with a similar private-sector project in Buri Ram that would cost about the same.
Under the OIE/NESDB proposal, about Bt3.16 billion would be spent on the research centre itself, and Bt4.88 billion for a test track, said Nattapon Nattasomboon, director of the OIE, which is under the Ministry of Industry.
Initially, the SCRFD is expected to approve Bt2.38 billion for setting up the research and testing centre to comply with standards certified for the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
The Industry Ministry has proposed three candidate locations for the centre.
These are a 250-rai (40-hectare) plot in Gateway City Industrial Estate in Chachoengsao province, a 273-rai plot in Hemaraj Industrial Estate in Chon Buri province, and a 252-rai plot in Amata City Industrial Estate, also in Chon Buri.
Meanwhile Newin Chidchob, chief adviser of the project to build a world-class motor-racing circuit in Buri Ram, believes his own research and testing centre could be completed before the government could get its centre up and running.
It was recently announced that Newin planned to construct a Bt2-billion Buriram International Circuit that would meet the standards of the Federation International de l'Automobile and the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM).
However, Newin also revealed to The Nation that an automobile-testing centre was another viable project given the needs of the growing Thai automobile-assembly industry.
It is time Thailand had its own auto-testing centre to support the "Detroit of Asia" tag, he said.
A feasibility study into such a project is under way, which Newin expects to be concluded soon, as everything would have to proceed by June.
He said total investment for the ambitious project could be less than Bt10 billion thanks to today's technological advances. Forty per cent of the investment would be from foreigners, with the rest from his family and local business alliances.
This project is not related to the government's plan to invest in an auto and auto-parts testing centre, just an option for the private sector to avoid the red-tape delays typical of state-initiated projects, he said.
The laboratories and other auto-testing facilities would not require a huge investment, though they would have to adhere to internationally accepted industrial standards. However, full-scale test tracks - 14 would be needed - would cost about Bt8 billion, including a Bt1-billion high-speed testing track.
That amount is on par with the government's estimated budget for such a project.