Here at Go Flat Out, we do not mind where a car is assembled. Whether it is from China, Thailand, Malaysia, or even India, for as long as it meets a car manufacturer’s stringent quality standards, we surely do not mind at all.
Tan Chong International Ltd., the parent company of Motor Image, which is the distributor of Subaru across nine countries in Asia, has recently opened a manufacturing plant in Bangkok in early 2019. That plant currently produces the Forester for select markets in the ASEAN region, such as Vietnam, Thailand, among others. We were able to attend the opening ceremony as well as witnessing the Forester being manufactured from complete knockdown (CKD) parts to the fully assembled vehicle. The plant’s quality control team even assured us that whether the Forester is made in Japan or Thailand, the quality is the same.
Or is it? To find out, Subaru has brought in two Foresters that seemingly look the same upon first inspection, but a careful scrutinization of the two Foresters highlighted their differences, albeit very minor. Without scrolling down from here, can you guess which one is the one that’s made in Thailand?
If you picked the one on the right, then you’re absolutely correct, but I’m pretty sure it was more of a guess rather than a firm decision. From the outside, what separates the Japanese Forester from the one made in Thailand are its satin silver side mirrors and sunroof. These differences, however, are towards its design and features rather than its quality, so we’ll move on.
The one thing I did not do first is to look at each vehicle’s vehicle identification number (VIN) sticker near the door sills because it would surely give me a placebo effect, thus affecting how I perceive each Forester. So upon careful scrutinization between the two Foresters, these were the differences that I found out.
As mentioned, the exterior differences were mainly on the aesthetic side, but upon closer inspection, there were differences with the car’s glass. The Japanese Forester’s window labels are directly etched onto the glass, while the Thai Forester’s are printed. Also, the Japanese Forester has slightly greener glass than the Thai Forester. As for the panel gaps and build consistence at the front, both are practically the same. So far, nothing entirely different in terms of quality and durability.
The difference between the two Foresters’ center consoles is the stitching details. The Japanese Forester is finished in a stitched faux leather trim while the Thai-built Forester is just plastic. The armrests are likewise different, with the Japanese Forester having a stitched finish while the Thai-built Forester does not have any. However, it seems they’re both made with the same soft material. Again, the differences are mainly on the cosmetic and equipment side rather than its actual quality.
Moving on, more differences are seen with the Forester’s seats and doors. Whereas the Japanese-built Forester has double-stitched seats and door trims, the Thai-built Forester only has a single stitch. Additionally, the door trims on the Japanese-built Forester is less grainy compared to the Thai-built Forester.
Under the hood of the two Foresters is a 2.0-liter FB20 four-cylinder boxer engine that produces 154 hp and 196 Nm of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via a CVT. Now, there really isn’t any difference between the two engine bays. What sets the two apart are where the components provided by Subaru’s suppliers are manufactured. That should not affect the quality of the two Foresters for as long as these suppliers also apply the same quality control standards in the country where these parts are produced.
As a whole, both Subaru Foresters feel pretty much the same in terms of its build quality. Both cars are well screwed together. The doors and hood on both cars close with a reassuring thud, while the trim pieces and panel gaps of these two vehicles are basically on par with each other. Admittedly, there are small differences between the two cars, which are mainly on the aesthetic and equipment side of things, but that should absolutely not affect how long these cars will last during its lifetime.
Our market is filled with cars sourced from Thailand, and based on the experience of motorists, that is absolutely not an issue in terms of durability given how our roads are not exactly the best in the world. The way they last on our roads is testament to the Thai’s manufacturing prowess.
For the Philippine market, all our Subarus are sourced from Japan. If Motor Image one day decides to import the PH-market Foresters from Thailand instead of Japan, it will surely make it cheaper because of free trade agreements within the ASEAN region. Would you buy a Forester if ours were suddenly sourced from Thailand? Let us know in the comments section.