EV Primus angles to create EV supermarket
Descendant of siang kong dealer wants to give electric vehicle buyers many options in one showroom
published : 13 May 2023 at 07:00
newspaper section: Business
writer: Lamonphet Apisitniran
The growing electric vehicle (EV) market in Thailand is leading car dealers to consider what EV brands should be featured in their showrooms.
Instead of relying on one brand, EV Primus sells a variety of brands, focusing on cars that match the different lifestyles of drivers.
EV Primus is marketing three Chinese EV brands -- Seres, Volt and DFSK (Dongfeng), which is the second-largest automaker in China -- and plans to add two more brands, while developing its EV supply chain in Thailand, according to managing director Pitaya Tanadamrongsak.
Selling a range of car brands should not be a surprise given Mr Pitaya's familiarity with his family's auto parts business.
The Tanadamrongsak family started selling second-hand auto parts imported from Japan, Taiwan and China to customers who needed usable parts that are inexpensive.
"My family was among the first Chinese families in Thailand to start this business, known among Thais as siang kong," said Mr Pitaya.
An important source for many used vehicle parts, siang kong proved popular with car owners and mechanics who needed cheap used parts, mostly imported from Japan. These shops sold parts for many types of cars, bicycles, motorcycles, agricultural vehicles and even small boats.
"My father later developed the business by joining with a Chinese company to sell new spare auto parts because used parts from Japan became scarcer," he said.
"This decision caused our business to grow faster."
The rapid growth of the Thai EV market, fuelled by the entry of many brands into the country, gave Mr Pitaya the idea of building an EV supermarket so that buyers could choose from different designs, technologies and prices, making comparisons before deciding on a purchase.
This decision-making process occurs in one showroom, eliminating the need to go to many shops to look for different EVs.
"When you come to an EV Primus showroom, you will see many car models with various specifications," he said.
"Perhaps EVs that can operate for 200-300 kilometres on one charge may match your lifestyle. Their prices range from 200,000-500,000 baht a car."
EV Primus wants to form partnerships with more car dealers to sell EVs under this concept. The concept should help dealers save on costs because they do not need to buy land to build a new showroom in order to display brands, said Mr Pitaya.
"Dealers will be happy because they can spend only 5-10 million baht to update space at their showrooms into display areas for different EV brands," he said, comparing the cost to roughly 100 million baht to construct a whole new showroom.
Mr Pitaya expects dealers can earn enough money to break even in 1-2 years.
As a member of the second generation of the Tanadamrongsak family, he wants to grow EV Primus, which he founded in 2021, as the Thai EV market gathers momentum.
Thais are interested in EVs, reflected by high bookings at the 2023 Bangkok International Motor Show, held from March 22 and April 2.
EV bookings skyrocketed by around 300% year-on-year to 9,234 units during the 12-day event. They made up 21.5% of total car bookings, while cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) still commanded the most bookings, amounting to 33,651 units, a year-on-year increase of more than 34%, according to Grand Prix International, which organised the event.
One option where Mr Pitaya sees potential in Thailand is city EV models.
He said the trend in China is city EVs are bought as second cars by people eager to try a new technology and do their part to reduce carbon dioxide emitted by oil-powered cars.
"Many Chinese families have two cars, one with a traditional engine and an EV, the latter of which is used to drive for short distances within a city," said Mr Pitaya.
In Thailand, small car sales tally 90,000 units a year, so the company sees an opportunity to offer city EVs as an alternative, he said.
Last year, up to 3 million battery EVs were sold in China, with city EVs making up around 1 million, according to EV Primus.
"Chinese city EVs are sold for 200,000-300,000 baht a unit. Their inexpensive prices are attractive to buyers," said Mr Pitaya.
EV Primus plans to join with a Chinese firm to co-invest in EV motor manufacturing in Thailand to serve growing demand for EVs.
The new factory, which is located in the eastern province of Rayong, will produce motors for the urban car Volt as well as other EV brands, he said.
The goal is to build a strong EV supply chain in Thailand to satisfy demand for motors from EV assemblers, said Mr Pitaya.
The production capacity of the plant is 10,000-20,000 motors a year, enough to serve EV makers in Thailand, notably those from China.
The investment is estimated at 300-400 million baht, in line with the Chinese firm's plan to expand its EV-related business into Thailand, where the industry is being promoted by the government.
"This is a great opportunity for us to learn new technological know-how from our partner," he said.
EV Primus earlier announced a joint investment with Green Filters Co to build a factory in Chachoengsao to assemble EVs, notably Volt. The facility, with an annual production capacity of 4,000 cars, is scheduled to start operations in September this year and begin exports by the end of 2023.
The company adjusted the construction plan by relocating the assembly plant to an area adjacent to the motor factory, said Mr Pitaya.
EV Primus aims to sell 3,000-4,000 EVs this year.