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GM now turns to Thailand for funds

GENERAL Motors Inc, barely staying afloat with the aid of a United States bailout, is now seeking funds from Thailand's government and banks to keep its auto business running in the Southeast Asian nation.

The company is asking the Thai Ministry of Industry and banks to help fund its one-ton pickup truck manufacturing and planned US$445 million diesel engine factory in the eastern seaboard province of Rayong. Thailand is a major production and export hub in Asia for pickup trucks.

"Due to the financial crisis which affects every major automobile manufacturer in every country of the world, our projects are delayed, notably our diesel engine plant at Rayong," Steve Carlisle, president of General Motors Southeast Asia, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"This calls for alternative funding solutions that will allow us to keep up with the progress we need to make," he said.

GM announced ambitious plans last August to build a diesel engine plant in Thailand and upgrade an existing assembly factory.

The new plant, which would produce engines for small pickup trucks, was slated to begin production in 2010 with an annual capacity of more than 100,000 units. GM had earlier unveiled plans to expand its one-ton pickup manufacturing in Rayong with the introduction of a "next generation" model.

Since then the downturn in the US and global car markets has intensified, forcing GM to go cap in hand to the US government for a US$13 billion lifeline as it teetered on the brink of collapse.

Thailand is a major regional manufacturing base for several global auto makers including GM and Toyota.

The auto and auto parts industries employ tens of thousands in relatively well-paying positions.


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