Thursday, August 29, 2013

Changing Perceptions: Foton Shows Us Their World-Class Manufacturing Facility in Shandong, China

Photos by Ulysses Ang
SHANDONG, CHINA—Like the Japanese and Korean car makers of today, the Chinese have come a long way—considering they only started a formal car industry in the 1970’s. Foton and its Philippine distributor, United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI) is certainly leading the way with a remarkable 30-percent growth year-on-year led by its light-duty trucks (LDT) which the company claims is the country’s second best-selling brand last year.

Beyond the affordable and cost-effective products, Foton is also confident of its world-class production facilities and systems—some of which can go head-to-head with the best. In order to prove that Foton has what it takes to compete on the world stage, UAAGI invited a small number of Philippine automotive journalists as well as their dealers to tour the company’s new production facilities in the Shandong Province in China.

A Long Way Forward

Established in 1996, Beiqi Foton Motor Co. or more commonly known as Foton is a relatively young brand. Yet, in just 14 years, they have become the world’s second largest commercial vehicle brand (second only to Daimler AG) and China’s biggest. The state-owned company has sold more than 5 million vehicles and currently employs more than 26,000 people. With heavy investments towards research and development, Foton is now exported to more 120 different countries around the world. Recognizing its global importance in the commercial vehicle segment, Daimler AG took a 24 percent stake in the company making it Foton’s second largest shareholder. Since then, Foton has also entered into a partnership with diesel engine leader Cummins to produce heavy-duty diesel engines for its vehicles.

Located in the industry city of Weifang City, in Shandong Province, Foton’s new Shandong Utility Factory is nothing short of impressive. Completed in February 2011, it’s massive: spanning 480,000 square-meters at the cost of RMB 7.21 billion (~US$ 1.2 billion). It’s strategically located being near to the port city of Qingdao for easy shipment to export markets such as the Philippines. Yet, this plant is dedicated mainly to the production of Foton’s vans (there are three other plants in the province for Foton’s other products). The Shandong Utility Factory is also configured to produce Foton’s future vehicles which include a European-style van in 2013, a new pick-up and SUV in 2014, and an A- and B-segment passenger car by 2015. It’s also capable of producing engines and body panels for assembly. It has annual output of 1 million units and has several quality test equipment including its own 1.5-kilometer test track that simulates various real-world road conditions.

For now though, this factory produces the award-winning Foton MPX, View, and the tentatively named New View—a new addition to Foton’s product portfolio which will be sold in the Philippines by October of this year.

Situated also in Weifang City, Foton’s heavy industrial division has successfully transformed itself from manufacturing harvesting machinery to a large scale producer of construction machinery, agricultural equipment, vehicles, and engines. Domestically known in China as Lovol, Foton’s heavy industrial division employs an additional 15,000 people, two manufacturing plants, and two overseas R&D centers (one in Japan and the other in Europe). Last year alone, Foton Lovol sold more than 790,000 units, a sales volume increase of 12 percent. By the same token, Foton Lovol successfully exported 2,000 pieces of construction machinery, 18,300 pieces of agricultural equipment, and 550,000 tri-wheeled motorcycles including fully-electric and, get this, diesel-powered models.

Finally, located in Zhucheng City at the southeast area of Shandong Province is the “birthplace of Foton”. Before moving its headquarters to Beijing, Zhucheng City was Foton’s base of operations. Today, it’s responsible for assembling the company’s light-duty four- and six-wheeler trucks known as the Aumark in China, but more commonly referred to in the Philippines as the Tornado series. The Zhucheng plant assembles two models: the Aumark C which are all powered by Cummins 2.8 or 3.8-liter Euro III or Euro IV engines and the Aumark TX which are equipped with Isuzu 4JB1 and in-house Lovol engines which are tuned for Euro II or Euro III emissions standards.

Philippine Commercial Vehicle Leader

In the Philippines, Foton found a strategic partner in UAAGI which is also known as Foton Motor Philippines. Already the country’s second best-selling light-duty truck brand, Foton is already on its way to meet its next goal: to set-up an assembly plant in the Philippines. Construction of the 50,000 square-meter plant is currently on schedule in the Clark Freeport Zone at the cost of P 1 billion (~ US$ 35 million). UAAGI plants to assemble some of its products there including the Blizzard pick-up truck, View, and MPX. This will be first time a car manufacturing plant will be owned by a Filipino.

Aside from this manufacturing facility, UAAGI has a training facility in Subic as well as a vehicle storage, testing, service training and parts warehouse in Valenzuela and Bulacan. With its main showroom and service center located in Balintawak, Quezon City, Foton has now grown to 18 dealerships and over 90 accredited service centers nationwide. All in all, they offer highly focused diesel commercial vehicles such as the Blizzard and Thunder pick-ups, the View, MPX, and LCV vans and other business-oriented vehicles such as Tornado light-duty truck, Hurricane and ETX heavy-duty truck, buses, forklifts, excavators, road rollers, wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, and motor graders.

2020 Strategy

With a well-diversified business in areas such as automotive, energy, logistics, equipment manufacturing, and even financial and IT services, Foton is focusing on its 2020 strategy with the tagline: “See the Future, Leading the Future”. Over the next ten years, Foton aims to be a world-class corporation selling some 4 million vehicles grounded on a 5+3+1 strategy. With this strategy, Foton aims to achieve industrialization in five key developing countries: Brazil, Mexico, Russia, India, and Indonesia; increased market share in three developed areas: Japan and South Korea, Europe, and North America; and maintain its leadership position in China.

In the Philippines, UAAGI and Foton Motor Philippines is aiming to be the clear number one in the commercial vehicle segment. The company is very strong in both the Metro Manila and the Mindanao area due to its expanded dealership presence, but the brand is confident that it will also grow its business in the Visayas region. In fact, UAAGI has announced several exciting things for their upcoming Foton’s The Big Show—an annual sales event and showcase highlighting the company’s various products and services.

Among the highlights announced for The Big Show from Friday, October 25 to Sunday, October 27, 2013 at The World Trade Center in Pasay City are: the launch of the Foton New View, a new 18-seater addition to the Foton van line-up powered by a Cummins diesel engine; Foton Total Care, a program which standardizes Foton’s after sales service nationwide, and a dance routine featuring Foton’s line of heavy equipment.

With such an exponential growth rate, it’s clear that brands such as Foton will pave the way for the future (literally). After all, though Chinese brands such as Foton are still in a relative infancy compared to those in Japan and Europe, they have the most to learn. And if there’s one thing about the Chinese, they’re fast learners.


  1. "UAAGI plants to assemble some of its products there including the Blizzard pick-up truck, View, and MPX. This will be first time a car manufacturing plant will be owned by a Filipino."

    Isn't UMC factory in Laguna a Filipino owned plant?

  2. Foton New View is another Hiace Grandia LWB Hi Roof-clone.

  3. Wow! Now that I've seen this! Foton just earned my respect! I've been seeing their clone vehicles in the road and I'm a bit skeptical by the way they look except for the new blizzard.

    The New blizzard blown me away. I, honestly, didn't think that it was from Foton! HAHA! BUT anyway, Foton is reclaiming marketshare here in PH and I'm looking forward for new and fresh car designs from them.

    Kudos for the cummins engines!

  4. Any news on therelaunch/availability of the MPX?