Foton, the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in China, officially opened its assembly plant in the country with the completion of its P1.2 billion facility at the Clark Freeport Zone on February 12, 2016.
The plant was formally inaugurated in the presence of Governor Lilia Pineda of Pampanga, Clark Development Corporation president lawyer Art Tugade, and Bases Conversion Development Authority president and Chief Executive Officer lawyer Arnel Paciano Casanova.
Signaling the start of Foton PH’s assembly operations was the roll-out of a red Toplander from the assembly line.
Sitting on an 11-hectare property, which is adjacent to the Expo Filipino site in Pampanga, the manufacturing plant has a single assembly line with an annual production capacity of 12,000 units. Initially, Foton will assemble their passenger vehicle line-up, light duty trucks as well as some heavy-duty commercial vehicles.
Foton PH has plans of exporting units to Laos and Taiwan by 2020, and will need the addition of another assembly line in the plant to increase its annual production capacity to 20,000 units.
Currently, the plant has three major facilities namely: Unit Assembly in Building A; a 4,200 square-meter parts warehouse and Pre-delivery inspection in Building B; and Body Fabrication in Building C. Just before the plant inauguration, Foton Philippines leased a sprawling lot adjacent to the plant to serve as its stockyard.
The decision to build a plant in the Philippines was brought about by the Filipino’s warm reception to Foton vehicles. From selling a measly 100 units in its first two years of operations in 2007, the sales performance of the brand has grown to over 4,000 units annually. And with the local auto industry growing at an exponential rate, Foton PH saw it wise to invest in a manufacturing plant to meet to growing demand for new vehicles as well as to provide Filipinos with much-needed employment.
Hard work pays off
Foton president Romel Syting recalled how challenging it was during Foton PH’s first two years of operations as the brand had to sail through rough seas before gaining prominence in the local automotive industry. “It took a while, but we feel very fortunate that all our hard work has paid off,” he said.
Beginning with a single light truck model in 2007, Foton’s product line-up has grown to 24 models with 64 variants.
Sytin attributed Foton’s popularity to the wide range of vehicles that they offer. At present, Foton offers passenger cars, passenger vans, pick-up trucks, light-duty trucks, commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks.
Fueling Foton PH’s growth was the strong market acceptance of the Foton View Traveller and View TransVan products – through the help of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s policy to phase-out aging UV Express and school service units.
Strong institutional demand for light-duty trucks such as the Euro 4-compliant Foton Tornado also boosted sales figures. As the brand continued to establish a presence and cultivate a positive reputation in the market, banks and other financial institution took notice and extended accreditation. “This is a key development, because most of our buyers seek access to financial instruments for purchasing or leasing purposes,” Sytin disclosed. “With the support of banks, we are able to extend better deals to our clients and make the acquisition process much easier.”
Moreover, Foton continues to attain higher sales through their growing number of dealerships all over the country. At present, the automaker has 18 dealerships scattered across the country and 44 accredited centers to administer official and qualified service in areas without dealerships.
This 2016, Foton’s dealer network will grow to 24 as new dealerships will open in Quezon Avenue, Pasong Tamo, Marilao, Santa Rosa, Batangas City and Camarines Sur. Within the next three years, Foton expects its dealership network to grow to 35 nationwide.
The establishment of the Foton plant in Pampanga was made possible through the help of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Clark Development Corporation and the provincial government of Pampanga. Foton PH also committed to put up a Technical Training Center in Clark that will provide effective technical education not only to the locals of the region but also to every individual interested in joining the brand’s network or the vehicle industry.
“The future graduates of this technical training center can expect high possibility of employment within our company, with our dealers, as well as with other Foton distributors abroad,” Sytin said.