Australian dependence on light trucks built in Thailand has hit a major snag due to recent floods, with supplies of vital new models to be delayed until the Thai industry gets back on its feet.

For the local Australian arms of Japanese manufacturers, it is the second shock for an industry still reeling from the fallout of the tsunami that Japan earlier in 2011.

Nearly all Japanese-badged light commercials (as well as those sold as a Holden or Ford) are now sourced out of Thailand to exploit the free trade agreement between Thailand and Australia.

The worst affected appear to be Ford and Holden, as this latest disaster has coincided with the most important new light commercial ranges in the history of these local companies.

Both are desperate to achieve momentum so that they’re ready to do battle with vastly improved next generation Chinese models on their way in 2012.

FORD recently revealed its new Ranger in top shelf XLT specification only, with the aspirational five cylinder 3.2-litre diesel engine as a halo model for the all new PX range.

Bread and butter Ranger models were supposed to follow in the closing months of 2011, including a Single cab, SuperCab 4X2, Hi-Rider 4X2 and Wildtrak 4X4, as well as a new 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine and 2.2-litre diesel.

Although the main factory escaped flood damage, many Thai component suppliers and their workforces were not so lucky.

The Thai industry has been working around the clock to get supplies back on track, but it hasn’t been enough to avoid delays. In Ford’s case, the rest of the Ranger range won’t arrive until well into 2012.

HOLDEN is monitoring the situation closely, as it planned to roll out its striking new Colorado range in the first quarter of 2012. This is looking less likely as Holden insiders are now bracing for a delay into the second quarter.

Although MITSUBISHI is not about to release a new Triton range, it is more exposed than most when its Challenger SUV is also built in Thailand. Both now face delays in deliveries next year.

Equally of concern are the diesel engines built in Thailand for local Pajeros. Conscious that the Australian SUV market is about to shift up another gear, Mitsubishi in Thailand is working around the clock to iron out any delays when the Australian market is vital to the Thai facility.

NISSAN is also set to upgrade the specification of its D40 Navara range early in 2012, by further exploiting new shared manufacturing arrangements with Mitsubishi in Thailand.

Although it’s unlikely that the recent floods will change the schedule, Nissan could well face similar delays to Ford in rolling out the complete range in adequate volumes. TJ



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