BMW applies for PHEV, to localise in 2019
BMW Group is the second European carmaker to apply for the Board of Investment (BoI)'s plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) scheme in Thailand, indicating the local market's potential as a part of the region's electric vehicle (EV) supply chain.
The German firm also announced its plans to localise assembly of PHEV batteries in Thailand in 2019.
In early January, its German peer Mercedes-Benz announced it was applying for assembly of PHEVs and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at its joint venture plant in Samut Prakan.
Munich-based BMW Group decided to join the government's EV projects after it recorded successful PHEV sales in the Thai market last year, rising by 269% year-on-year.
In 2017, its PHEVs represented 13% of the 10,020 BMW cars in the country, ranked third after Malaysia at 56% and Scandinavia (27%).
Stafan Teuchert, president of BMW Group Thailand, said the company is very keen on increasing production of PHEVs and making vital EV parts at the plant in Rayong to support its business.
BMW assembles four PHEVs at the plant in Amata City Industrial Estate -- the 330e, 530e, X5 xDrive40e and 740Le -- all serving the domestic market. But the vital batteries are still imported from Europe.
Mr Teuchert said the company cannot disclose any further details on the investment budget, manufacturing location and the total timeline for the scheme.
There will be additional investment on top of the 4.7-billion-baht investment at its Rayong plant, where BMW spent during 2000-2017.
"We are making a decision about the localisation of PHEV batteries, and scheduling the manufacturing next year," he said. "It can be allocated to our Rayong plant or we may find new partners."
Mr Teuchert said the plant, operated by BMW Group Manufacturing Thailand is the strategic location for the BMW network in Asean because it is the only site that the group has invested in wholly.
The other plants in Malaysia and Indonesia are joint ventures.
Last year, the Rayong plant produced 20,002 BMW cars, 60% of which were exported to China.
Big bike brand BMW Motorrad is also assembled at the same plant, with 2,209 motorcycles made in 2017. For three of the models produced -- R 1200 GS, F700 GS and F 800 GS -- half are shipped to China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Mr Teuchert said the parent firm has set its target on par with the global level, consciously putting the focus on PHEVs and BEVs.
By 2025, there will be 25 BMW cars under the PHEV and BEV platforms, while the group has outlined a plan for the Mini BEV to be launched in 2019, to be followed by BMW X3 BEV in 2020 and BMW iNext BEV in 2021.
The BMW i3 is the only BEV car sold commercially.
By 2019, the group expects 500,000 PHEV and BEV sales worldwide, compared with 100,000 in 2017.