Mercedes-Benz mulls hybrid battery factory
Company aims to meet rising PHEV demand
Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz Thailand is considering construction of a local battery plant to serve plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
According to president and chief executive Michael Grewe, a battery facility is needed in Thailand because PHEV demand is growing.
Mercedes-Benz now assembles PHEV models at the Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant, a joint venture in Samut Prakan, but batteries are still imported from Germany.
"I cannot say when the factory will be built, but we intend to have high-voltage battery production here to support Thailand's future car market," he said.
Frank Steinacher, vice-president for sales and marketing, said the company's PHEV sales are growing steadily, as shown by Mercedes-Benz's August sales of 1,190 units -- 500 of which were PHEVs.
Since the PHEV launch in January this year, the company has sold a combined 1,500 PHEVs.
For the eco-friendly segment, Mercedes-Benz started assembling hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) under its BlueTec Hybrid label in 2013 at the Samut Prakan plant -- its first Asia-Pacific operation for such high-tech models.
The company sold more than 4,000 HEVs from 2013-15.
Mercedes-Benz's PHEVs are still made at the same plant, while HEVs are no longer assembled locally.
Mr Grewe said PHEVs are a suitable technology for the Thai market because the models can be powered both by fuel and by electricity via battery recharging.
He said the Thai government's policy on production of electric vehicles is the right strategy going ahead amid the growing trend towards zero emissions.
To reach that goal, Mr Grewe said automakers, high-technology parts (batteries), infrastructure (charging stations) and regulations would have to be ready.
Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz yesterday launched two new models: the GLC 250 d 4MATIC Coupe AMG Dynamic and the GLC 250 d 4MATIC Coupe AMG Plus.
The two are sport-utility vehicles, each equipped with a four-cylinder in-line diesel engine.
Mercedes-Benz posted sales of 7,716 vehicles during the first eight months of 2016, up 9% year-on-year.
Last year, the brand's full-year sales in Thailand peaked at an all-time high of 12,776 vehicles, up from 11,328 in 2014.