Hitachi has moved its regional white-goods R&D center from Japan to Thailand to safeguard against the expected negative impact on its operations of full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) agreement, as well as concern that a war with Iraq will depress consumer demand. Hitachi's new "Real Innovator" campaign will focus on introducing innovative products to the Thai market.
Thira Thongton, vice president and COO of Hitachi Consumer Products (Thailand), said the Thai-based regional R&D center would reduce costs and accelerate market access. The center will develop tailor-made general electrical consumer goods for each market in the Asian region, while the Japanese headquarters will focus its R&D on hi-tech products. "Market demand is changing rapidly and we have to move faster in product development to keep pace with the global trend," he said.
The facility at Hitachi's factory in Prachin Buri will be fully operational next year and is expected to reduce the price of Hitachi products, Mr. Thongton said. The first product from the R&D center will be the new Hitachi Smart Door refrigerator featuring a separate door for bottles and cans. By reducing the frequency of opening the main door, the Smart Door model is claimed to cut energy use by up to 39 percent. Hitachi is also developing a washing machine with a load capacity of 11kg compared to 8-9kg models developed by the Japanese center. Both new items are among 150 products Hitachi aims to introduce to the Thai market next year.
The R&D center will also improve Hitachi's exports from Thailand by adapting to the demands of overseas markets. New markets the company is targeting include the Middle East, East Asia, Russia, and Africa.
"Demand in India, Bangladesh, and even China is very large and we expect to benefit from Thailand's free-trade agreements with these countries to facilitate market penetration," Mr. Thongton said, adding that export income is expected to surge 15 percent next year and account for 60 percent of its revenue for 2003. (The Nation)
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