BMW marks B1bn for PHEVs
Preparing to double production capacity
BMW Group Manufacturing Thailand is on course to increase production capacity for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
The German carmaker has set aside a 1-billion-baht 2016-17 budget for the task, aiming to improve line operations at the assembly plant in Rayong province.
From 2000 to 2015, the carmaker invested about 3.7 billion baht in its Amata City Industrial Estate plant.
Of the planned 1 billion baht, 488 million was used in 2016 to support expansion of BMW's PHEV models, which began assembling last November.
The remaining budget will be used this year to prepare to double production capacity in the future.
At present, the plant can make 20,000 cars for BMW and Mini per year. BMW Motorrad motorcycles have an annual capacity of 10,000 units.
Stafan Teuchert, the newly appointed president of BMW Group Thailand, said the two-year investment is aimed at coping with future demand both domestically and abroad.
The Munich-based parent firm is seeking any opportunity to export cars and motorcycles from the Thai operation, he said.
The Rayong plant has been shipping BMW cars to Malaysia since 2006, but in limited volume.
Since last year, the group has exported a large volume of completely built-up models of BMW X3 and X5 to China.
This year, it plans to ship about 10,000 units of the models abroad, mainly to China.
For BMW Motorrad, the company has exported about 1,000 motorcycles to Malaysia and China since 2015.
He said that China and Malaysia are two major markets but the company is eyeing markets in Asean countries.
In the domestic market, BMW is focusing more on improving its assembly line for PHEVs by bringing in more advanced technology to manufacture car batteries at the Rayong plant by mid-2018.
At present, it imports batteries from Europe for BMW electric cars.
Locally-made batteries will lower costs and make the PHEV cars be more affordable for Thai consumers.
The Rayong plant now makes two PHEV models, the BMW 330e Luxury and the X5 xDrive40e M Sport.
Retail prices for the locally-assembled models are 2.59 million baht and 4.69 million baht per unit, about 490,000 and 690,000 baht lower than the imported ones.
According to Mr Teuchert, the company plans to localise BMW's PHEVs for the new 7 Series this year and new 5 Series next year.
To support the use of hybrid cars, BMW plans to add more electric charging stations for BMW cars, from the existing five locations to 12 locations in Bangkok this year.
The company expects sales of electric cars, mainly PHEVs, to rise substantially to 15% this year from 5% of BMW's total car sales in the past.
BMW employees at the Rayong plant.