Japan-based Toyota Motor Thailand is retaining its optimistic outlook for sales of the C-HR sport utility vehicle (SUV) to reach 20,000 units this year, even though the local plant is facing a supply shortage of hybrid model batteries.
The C-HR is the first model under the government's electric vehicle (EV) scheme for Toyota, the first carmaker to apply for and receive Board of Investment (BoI) privileges for hybrid EVs last year.
The BoI said the firm assembles 7,000 HEVs a year, makes 70,000 batteries for EVs and produces other parts such as doors, bumpers and front/rear axles, totalling 9.1 million units.
The company's total investment stands at 19 billion baht.
Toyota finishes C-HR models at its plant in Chachoengsao province.
The C-HR was introduced locally in early March and sold 2,184 cars the first month, recording the highest sales for a subcompact SUV with an engine below 1,800cc.
Vudhigorn Suriyachantananont, the company's executive vice-president, said sales of the C-HR are doing well, particularly the hybrid version, which represent 75-80% of total sales. The petrol-engine models make up the remainder.
The battery plants in Japan's Omori, Sakaijuku and Miyagi are the only three sites to supply nickel-metal hydride batteries for Toyota's hybrid EVs globally, and the local plant sometimes has a shortage of the batteries.
The three plants in Japan have a production capacity of 1.4 million batteries per year under a joint-venture firm, Primearth EV Energy Co, in which Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) holds a majority stake of 80.5% and Panasonic Corporation owns the rest.
Primearth also has an affiliate company in Jiangsu, China, with a capacity of 100,000 batteries per year.
"Toyota will try to achieve its C-HR sales target on the hybrid platform in 2018, but there are no worries for the other locally made hybrid Camry sedans because Toyota has a limited sales volume," said Mr Vudhigorn.
Last month TMC set out to establish a production base for hybrid vehicle batteries in Thailand, aiming to start operations at the beginning of 2020.
Toyota is rushing to enhance production capacity for EV batteries as it aims to sell a total of 5.5 million EVs by 2030, compared with 1.52 million sold in 2017.
Cumulative sales of EVs exceeded 11.47 million units worldwide last year.
At home, Mr Vudhigorn said Toyota is maintaining its sales outlook of 300,000 units sold in 2018, representing 24.9% growth with a market share of 33.3%.
In the first quarter, Toyota posted 64,234 units sold, up by 9.3% year-on-year, with market share declining 0.5 percentage points to 27.1%.