It used to be assumed that while carmakers might build production facilities in many countries, the more advanced R&D activities would remain in the manufacturer’s home country. However, in this age of globalisation, this is not necessarily that case and for any carmaker, it all depends on whether the conditions are right to carry out other activities besides just producing vehicles in a country. Besides the location, government policies are also important factors that influence a company in his decision of where to establish facilities outside its home country.
Honda Motor was the first automotive manufacturer to carry out R&D functions in Thailand when it established a facility to do motorcycle R&D in 1988. As its automobile business grew and the first ASEAN Car – the Honda City – was being developed, the company realised that it needed to carry out more R&D work within the region to be closer to the market and to have its engineers immersed in local conditions. This led to the establishment of Honda Research Thailand in 1994 as one of divisions at Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
The main function of this new unit was to support automotive parts development and its automobile production operations. Over time, its responsibilities grew to include product planning and quality control.
By 2005, the facility’s activities had expanded substantially and it was upgraded to become the Honda R&D Asia Pacific Co., Ltd. (HRAP). It is responsible for research and development for automobiles sold mainly in the Asia and Oceania region.
Recently, HRAP officially opened its own Proving Ground in the Prachinburi province of Thailand. This unique and comprehensive test course, specially designed for the region, was constructed with a total investment of Honda 1.7 billion baht (about RM218.5 million). Thailand is the third country where Honda has proving grounds of such a nature after Japan and the USA.
Within the facility, located to the northeast of Bangkok, are 8 test courses with a total length of 8 kms that will be used for both automobiles and motorcycles development and testing. The various vehicle tests include handling, stability, and overall performance of regionally developed models such as the City and BR-V as well as some global models. There are also special lawns that will be used in the future to test Honda’s lawn care products.
“Thailand has been at the centre of our manufacturing and exports in the Asia & Oceania region as well as an important base for our R&D operations. The Prachinburi Proving Ground will reinforce our product line-up by providing more competitive and attractive models beyond the expectations of customers in Thailand and the region,” said Shinji Aoyama, Chief Officer, Regional Operations (Asia & Oceania), Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and President & CEO, Asian Honda Motor Co., Ltd.