Mazda move to give jolt to Thai hybrids

Mazda move to give jolt to Thai hybrids

BoI scheme set to fuel massive investment

Thailand's electric vehicle market may finally come to life after Japanese carmaker Mazda Motor Corporation announced it would invest 11.4 billion baht to equip its Rayong plant to produce hybrid electric cars (HEVs).

Mazda recently submitted an application to the Board of Investment (BoI) to take advantage of its HEV production privilege scheme.

The deadline for the application was Dec 29, 2017.

Chanchai Trakarnudomsuk, president of Mazda Sales Thailand, a local unit of the Hiroshima-based firm, said Mazda is interested in making HEVs in Thailand and the government's incentives for eco-friendly vehicles match its midterm business plan on a global level.

"We cannot disclose any further details until 2019," he said. "But Mazda will discuss a timeline with the BoI this month, starting from investment to production and development for local parts to support the future of hybrid cars."

Mazda makes the Mazda 3 under the hybrid platform at its Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture, serving only the Japan market.

Mr Chanchai said the EV scheme is much different from that for eco-cars in terms of spending and production capacity.

Vice-president Atsushi Yasumoto said Mazda has confidence in Thailand and aims to make the country an integrated manufacturing base.

Thailand is also the first country outside of Japan featuring Mazda vehicle assembly, engine and transmission production facilities.

The company is also running a parts distribution centre in Samut Prakan for the Asean region.

"Mazda has invested heavily in Thailand for many important projects over the past several years, such as the eco-car phase 2 programme, the super cluster programme and the multi-million-dollar engine and transmission plant," he said.

After ramping up production capacity at its Mazda Powertrain Manufacturing Thailand facility in Chon Buri for its SkyActiv engines and transmissions, the company will conduct a tour of the facilities on Friday.

Masamichi Kogai, president and chief executive from the parent firm, will be in attendance.

Mazda now makes four models -- Mazda 2, Mazda 3, CX-3 and BT-50 -- at AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) in Rayong, a joint vehicle manufacturing venture between Mazda and Ford.

Meanwhile, Mazda reported it sold 51,335 vehicles in the Thai market, 21% growth year-on-year, marking the third-straight-year of gains.

The company's market share in 2017 rose by 0.4 percentage points to 5.9%. Mazda launched six new and refreshed models throughout last year.

The Mazda 2 eco-car remained the most popular model with 31,760 units sold, up by 37%. The BT-50 Pro pickup truck came in second, with 5,939 units sold, down 16%.

Mr Chanchai said the 2018 sales target is 60,000 vehicles, a 15% rise. He aims for the company's market share to stay at 6%, while it plans to release four new models this year.

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