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Ford, Mazda to invest $500 million in new small car factory in Thailand

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Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. say their Thai joint venture will invest more than $500 million in a new small car production plant.

It's the largest foreign investment in Thailand since last September's coup.

The companies say in a statement the investment, which will be split evenly between Ford and Mazda, will increase the AutoAlliance Thailand joint venture's annual production capacity to 275,000 vehicles from 175,000.

John Parker, Ford's executive vice-president for the Asia Pacific and Africa, says the investment reaffirms their commitment to the Thai market.

Foreign investment suffered in the wake of the September 2006 coup, which ousted Thaksin Shinawatra (TUHK'-sihn SHIHN'-ah-waht) as prime minister.

Investment has also been hurt by the central bank's capital controls, imposed last December.

Ford and Mazda will both start production at the plant in 2009 with the low-cost compact cars destined for domestic sales and export markets in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

Thailand is already a major production and export hub for pickup trucks.

AutoAlliance Thailand, which has about 3,500 staff, will hire another 2,000 workers by 2009.

Ford and Mazda estimate another 6,000 jobs will be indirectly created as a result of their investment.

Through their joint venture, the two companies have already invested about $1 billion in Thailand's auto manufacturing industry since 1995.

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Ford, Mazda to invest $500 million in new small car factory in Thailand
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