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Undaunted Volvo Truck adds workers

From left: Ekanat Suwintawong, vice president of Volvo Group (Thailand); Christophe Martin, president of Volvo Group Trucks in Asia-Oceania; and Jacques Michel, president of Volvo Group (Thailand), join the truck-maker

From left: Ekanat Suwintawong, vice president of Volvo Group (Thailand); Christophe Martin, president of Volvo Group Trucks in Asia-Oceania; and Jacques Michel, president of Volvo Group (Thailand), join the truck-maker

Despite predicting a 50-per-cent decline in the heavy-duty truck market this year, Volvo is adding 43 per cent more workers to its Thai operations.

Jacques Michel, president of Volvo Group (Thailand), said the group had made Thailand its largest production base for heavy-duty trucks in the Asia-Pacific region and would continue to invest more in the country.

"Now we have 1,400 employees, and will increase the workforce to 2,000 by the end of this year," he said.

Some of the new staff will work for Volvo's manufacturing operations in Samut Prakan and some at its expanding sales and service network.

Volvo manufactures and distributes Volvo and UD trucks. The Swedish firm sold its passenger-car business to Ford Motor, and it was acquired by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2010.

Volvo has invested Bt5 billion in Thailand since 2009, of which Bt3 billion was allocated for expanding its dealership network over the last two years, and Bt2 billion for ramping up manufacturing. The facilities began production last December.

Volvo Trucks has aggressively expanded its dealership network, which is owned and run by the parent firm, from just five branches in 2011 to 12 last year. This year, it has opened three dealership operations responsible for both the Volvo and UD brands, and will end the year at 17 branches.

It will hold the grand opening of its biggest dealership in the fourth quarter, moving the old one from Bang Na-Trat Kilometre 21 to Km 25.

The heavy-duty truck market has been growing very fast, from about 17,000-18,000 units in 2011 to about 20,000 units in 2012 and 30,000 units last year, although retail sales dropped by 50 per cent during the final quarter of last year and the first quarter of 2014.

If the market keeps falling at the same rate, it will end this year at 15,000 units, but that would still be "the third-best ever" year, Michel said.

Volvo remains "trustful" and positive about the Thai economy, he said. The Thai subsidiary also oversees five other countries - Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

At the launch of three Volvo Truck models in South Korea last week, Michel said Volvo had 70 per cent of the European brand segment of heavy-duty trucks in Thailand, which has outpaced the market's growth rate. Total sales expanded from about 300 units in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year.

"Our target is to grow our market share and the European segment," he said.

Volvo commenced local production of the FM, FH and FMX models last week. The Samut Prakan plant can roll out 4,500 Volvo and 20,000 UD trucks per year.


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