Making things the Taiwanese way

Posted on 29 Jul 2013 by The Manufacturer

As a guest of the Taiwan Trade External Development Council (TAITRA), The Manufacturer’s James Pozzi reports in a blog series exploring the country’s automotive supply chains over the next five days.

Ask most people who haven’t been to Taiwan what they know about this historic and breath-taking country, you would get a mixed response.

It’s certain that a good many would quote the ‘Made in Taiwan’ slogan, back from a time when everything from Nintendo Gameboys to fridges were assembled there. Its reputation as a manufacturing hub producing electronics and automotive parts is renowned. And true to form, Taiwan is still making things, and many different types of things at that.

With an automobile parts industry recently valued at $6.2bn exporting to every corner of the globe, it is evident that manufacturing in Taiwan is still viewed as beneficial. With a reputation for fast production and efficient product development time, it also has the advantage of a central-satellite plant system providing a high level of production flexibility.

As I rode into the searing heat of Taipei City from the airport situated 30 minutes away, my vision was dominated by the sight of some of the world’s biggest manufacturers from across a variety of sectors.

But while big globals such as LG and Panasonic are happy to produce more efficiently and cheaply by using Taiwan to manufacture, I was here to check out the home-grown manufacturers. With a perhaps unfair stigma over quality, I was keen to see for myself what Taiwan had to offer.

First up was Funtoro, the Taiwanese manufacturer of vehicle infotainment, showcasing its Taipei development centre.

With the ever growing need for on-demand services in cars, buses and trains, Funtoro has a presence in 120 countries worldwide, producing everything from radio services to onboard reading lights.

With 20,000 employees globally with 2,000 working in the company’s R & D department, the company has seen strong growth in Turkey, where 99% of the country’s buses have TVs.

A typical bus setup with Funtoro infotainment products, combining options for visual and audio.

When asked about expanding its presence in the UK, vice president Dennis Fang said given its status as an EU member nation, the emphasis on safety is far greater, thus restricts the mass implementation of vehicle infotainment seen in the Middle East, Asia and South America.

Mr Fang said: “Europe is a big market of course, but it is also very critical for safety and has a heavy emphasis on crash testing. We spent three years in Europe trying to pass every certification, and we hope in the coming years this will become a larger market for us.”

A short distance away, the travelling party – consisting of a Mexican, Japanese, Brazilian and American – ventured to Luxgen Motors, one of Taiwan’s largest domestic automotives.

Opening the doors to its downtown Taipei headquarters as general manager Jeffrey Chen discussed the company’s plan to export into emerging markets.

Founded in 2009 by parent company the Yulon Group, which has interests in automobile, IT, construction and investment, Luxgen has taken an innovative approach in both design and customer service.

Having invested $50m in R & D in the last year, I was given the opportunity to sit in one of its U7 models, released in 2011 to break into the medium-large sedan market.

With a strong foothold in China and Thailand, where it manufacturers cars as well as producing parts globally for Mitsubishi and Nissan, Luxgen has its sights set on the emerging markets.

Those cited with potential were Mexico and Brazil, with Mr Chen also stating his frustration at the high cost of imports preventing the company moving into the USA.

Luxgen vice president Jeffrey Chen addresses the media
Luxgen vice president Jeffrey Chen addresses the media.

In my short time here, what’s apparent is Taiwan’s determination to showcase a manufacturing identity of its own, unique from neighbouring China and Japan. Given the influence the likes of Luxgen and particularly Funtoro has on its industries, the Taiwanese effect on global goods and products is growing stronger.

Tomorrow sees me on the move as my party head south towards Taichung for two nights, to view Mobiletron and Orange electronic.