BANGKOK — Ford Motor Co. is investing $450 million in a new passenger car plant in Thailand, cementing the country's status as an Asian manufacturing base for the automaker despite prolonged political unrest.
The plant with an annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles will begin assembling the next-generation Ford Focus from 2012, the company said Thursday. Some 85 percent of cars produced at the facility will be sold overseas and the rest in Thailand.
Ford said up to 2,200 people will be employed at the factory slated for construction in the eastern seaboard province of Rayong that serves as a base for automakers and other industries.
The investment announcement comes after two months of anti-government protests in the Thai capital Bangkok were ended by a final army crackdown in May.
The protests started peacefully in mid-March but turned violent as the government tried to end them. At least 90 people, mostly protesters, were killed and arson damaged more than 30 buildings in central Bangkok.
Analysts had warned the violence, the latest convulsion in a political crisis that erupted with a coup in 2006, and fears of more unrest could chill foreign investment in Thailand, the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia.
Ford said in a statement that Thailand's top class automotive, logistics and export infrastructure was a factor in its decision to build the new plant in Rayong.
“This investment underscores our long term commitment to Thailand, and its role as a global production and export hub for Ford,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford's Asia and Africa business.