Truong Hai Auto Corporation (THACO), a typical successful firm in Vietnam's automobile sector, has been investing heavily in mechanics and the manufacturing of accessories.
THACO leaders shared the firm’s journey to resolve the issue: increasing the localization rate or surrendering to auto imports flooding the local market.
They also shared the one-stop model to help other Vietnamese enterprises cooperate to develop, thereby improving the internal power of Vietnam’s industry.
THACO chairman Tran Ba Duong said at a meeting with mechanical enterprises that “you have technology and machinery. We will build factories and lease them at low prices.”
“If we fail to demonstrate our commitment, you can take your machinery away.
“We will not go back on our words. Only actual acts and thoughts will create values."
Refreshing itself by enhancing investment
Returning to Chu Lai Industrial Park in central Quang Nam Province nearly three years after Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper held the forum ‘Last chance for Vietnam’s automobile industry,' a series of factories mushroomed, and container trucks have been nose to tail.
The industrial park is home to not only THACO automobile assembly factories measuring thousands of hectares in area but also newly-built factories manufacturing accessories and mechanical products.
Enthusiastically sharing a project to develop THACO Chu Lai into a hub manufacturing mechanical products, accessories, and devices for industries in the central region, Do Minh Tam, general director of Truong Hai Supporting Industries and Mechanics Limited Liability Company (THACO Industries), an arm of THACO, expected the project to boost the development of Vietnam’s industry.
“At first, everyone seemed dubious. They only thought of automobiles whenever mentioning THACO. However, we separated mechanics from the automobile segment in November 2021,” Tam said.
From 17 factories producing automobile parts, THACO Industries has developed a complex of 19 factories whose strategy is to concurrently increase the localization rate and supply accessories and mechanical products to the domestic and foreign markets.
It is a must to develop the factories on a large scale and in a methodical manner as in 2019, THACO and many other automobile manufacturing and assembly enterprises faced a selection: increasing the localization rate or letting car imports flood the local market due to their competitive advantage given import tariff cuts.
Fruitful results and development ambitions
Nevertheless, it is not easy to develop an empire.
In 2021, a meeting on the restructuring of the firm was held by key leaders to choose a new business model, restructure a board responsible for the company’s products because of its more diversified product portfolio, develop a research and development (R&D) center, and boost digitalization, Tam remembered.
However, the results surprised many people. With revenue from mechanics amounting to VND5.7 trillion (US$244.2 million) in 2021, THACO Industries set a target to generate revenue of $1 billion by 2025 and invest in 15 more factories, operating in the mechanics, automobile, agricultural mechanics, construction, household appliance, and product design sectors.
“Mechanical accessories, electric wires, car seats, specialty chemicals, and bodywork will be localized first," Tam said.
“Once our staff are experienced and we can research and develop as well as design products, we will expand to industrial equipment.”
According to Tam, together with changes in supply chains, purchasers have had a higher demand for the one-stop model, which is like a food market with multiple dishes.
With THACO Industries’ advantages in a closed manufacturing chain with lower logistics costs, THACO has repeatedly secured orders of foreign direct investment enterprises, including those ordering a combo of molds, plastic injection equipment, paint and packaging services, instead of sourcing them from four to five separate suppliers.
THACO has a plan to develop industrial parks in the north and the south of the country, thus establishing new-generation specialized industrial parks to suspend the transport of huge volumes of products from Chu Lai to other provinces.
“The close connection and support in the three regions will contribute to optimizing the effectiveness of our value chain, reducing logistics costs, improving the competitiveness, and opening up new business opportunities,” Tam noted.
He added that THACO had also sought to develop a mechanical engineering outsourcing center in association with R&D to support small and medium enterprises in southern Binh Duong Province. The center will be developed under the one-stop model.
This will not be a normal mechanic engineering outsourcing center. R&D services and core technology will be invested in heavily.
|Employees monitor a spring production system at THACO Chu Lai Industrial Park in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
The center is expected to attract enterprises with the same sense of purpose of getting involved in global production chains and forming a sustainable mechanical engineering ecosystem.
No rivals, only partners
In the past, THACO manufactured and assembled automobile models for KIA and Mazda and it could be considered a rival of Hyundai and Ford.
However, with the policy of making friends with partners, THACO is currently manufacturing plastic bumpers for Hyundai Vietnam and Toyota at a lower price than those offered by Thai manufacturers.
It is also a supplier of springs for Isuzu Vietnam, and will be a partner of Ford Ranger in the near future.
THACO has launched four cooperation models: partners manufacturing and outsourcing products for THACO; THACO manufacturing and outsourcing the entire or part of products for R&D enterprises; THACO offering R&D services and manufacturing, outsourcing and providing products for enterprises having their own markets; and THACO and partners joining hands to manufacture products.
These models are expected to enhance the cooperation and competitiveness of enterprises, creating a strong industrial ecosystem and manufacturing society to pave the way for the breakthrough of the mechanical engineering sector and supporting industries.
Methodical support needed
Tam said state agencies’ support should be more methodical and specific.
Amid the shift of foreign investment to Vietnam, if institutes and state agencies conduct macro-scale and specialized research, or assess the advantages and competitiveness of Vietnam’s mechanical engineering sector, enterprises will have more information to grasp opportunities.
It will be too late to make investments after securing orders.
In addition, the mechanical engineering sector requires large capital while the rate of return is low. Therefore, to secure orders, the state should issue appropriate preferential interest policies for each sector.
Moreover, it is advised to focus on labor training on the basis of support packages for schools and students in engineering majors to help them approach advanced technology and techniques.
Incentives in taxes, land, and site clearance are also needed for companies to scale up their investment.
Notably, the development of industrial parks should involve plans to connect them with value chains, associated with expanding markets and seeking new customers.