BANGKOK -- Panasonic has started manufacturing air conditioners in Thailand and will build more in Malaysia, part of efforts to grow its appliance business in emerging Asia.
Production of mass-market models began last month at the company's heat exchanger plant at the Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate near Bangkok, the Japanese multinational said Wednesday. The new line can turn out 500,000 units annually, with 60% heading for Vietnam.
Panasonic had supplied the Thai market from the company's main air conditioner production base in Malaysia, where annual capacity will rise by 1 million units to 3.5 million by March. The factory also makes air conditioners for Western markets.
Together, the new Thai assembly line and the Malaysian expansion amount to a 60% rise in capacity over what Panasonic had in Malaysia before. In terms of investment, the increase will total 5 billion yen ($44.6 million).
Panasonic produces air conditioners in seven Asian countries besides Japan, including Indonesia, India, and the Philippines. The company holds the largest share of sales in Asia outside of Japan, but ranks fourth in Thailand, trailing Japanese competitors Mitsubishi Electric and Daikin Industries.
Panasonic eyes bigger sales of energy-saving inverter air conditioners as well as production of industrial models in Thailand, where it aims to become the market leader by 2020.
The Osaka-based group seeks to maintain double-digit annual growth in its Asian appliance business until 2020, when it hopes to reach double the level of its 2015 sales in that region, Hiroyuki Tagishi, managing director at Panasonic Appliances Asia Pacific, told reporters. That would outpace the annual growth of the Asian market as a whole.
"From a global perspective, our products sell best in Asia," Tagishi said, adding that Panasonic would continue making big investments in research and development, factories and other areas.