Mercedes-Benz awaits EV clarity as officials go mum

Mercedes-Benz awaits EV clarity as officials go mum

A Mercedes-Benz S500e plug-in hybrid on display at the Bangkok International Motor Show in 2017. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
A Mercedes-Benz S500e plug-in hybrid on display at the Bangkok International Motor Show in 2017. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Mercedes-Benz Thailand may delay its investment in the electric vehicle industry here after seeing no clear direction from the government to translate EV policy into action.

The German luxury car maker is calling on the government to hasten its plan to develop infrastructure to accommodate EV drivers.

The company wants to see a "clear and sincere" investment policy, otherwise it will change its EV plans in Thailand, Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said after a recent meeting with top Mercedes-Benz executives and the German ambassador.

Mercedes-Benz had announced a plan to start making EVs and batteries locally after applying with the Board of Investment (BoI) to join its incentive programme.

The Stuttgart-based firm received the green light from the BoI but has yet to proceed with investment to start assembling battery EVs, which run purely on batteries.

In 2018, Mercedes-Benz applied for investment privileges to expand production of plug-in hybrid EVs, which are fuelled by petrol and electricity. The project is valued at 607 million baht.

The car maker's local partner, Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant, also sought BoI approval for production of lithium-ion batteries, a project worth 600 million baht.

The two projects were awarded BoI privileges in March 2019.

"But now Mercedes is not sure about the policy to support the Thai EV industry, because the government has taken no further action," Mr Supant said.

It's also unclear when charger stations and indoor charging facilities will be built, he said, and there has been no progress in updating the relevant regulations.

Mercedes-Benz believes that the success of the EV policy will depend on the government leading by example to boost domestic demand for electric cars.

According to Mr Supant, German companies have voiced concern about the business climate in Thailand during the pandemic, as they suspect the government may refrain from giving aid to companies from European countries.

"Many businesses have been affected by Covid-19, but they cannot access the state relief measures to help them," he said. "That's just because many German companies don't borrow money from Thai commercial banks. But they too need the help."

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