Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motors Co (GWM) is strengthening its production base in Thailand with an investment of 22 billion baht as it seeks a foothold in the electric vehicle (EV) segment promoted by the government.
GWM's business, including its plan to sell sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups early next year, should "generate investment worth 22 billion baht and create jobs for 3,435 people," said Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit after a recent talk with Zhang Jiaming, president of GWM's Asean operations unit.
The firm expects its car production facility upgrade will be complete in the final quarter this year.
GWM is interested in making internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and a range of EVs such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles.
"The company reported to the ministry its car production capacity in Thailand stands at 80,000 units per year," said Mr Suriya.
He said GWM will continue its investment in Thailand because of the state policy to promote the EV industry and strong market potential in Thailand and Asean countries.
The company plans to develop batteries and electric engines that can save more power for HEVs and PHEVs.
Mr Suriya said GWM expects to use 45% local materials for its first lot of car production next year and increase the proportion to 90% by 2025.
The Thai factory is GWM's sixth overseas SUV assembly plant, following those in Bulgaria, Iran, Malaysia, Russia and Senegal. All plants serve domestic and export markets.
In 2013, GWM announced plans to invest about US$300 million to set up a SUV production plant in Thailand.
Thailand is the largest car producer in Southeast Asia and in the top 10 globally. Most manufacturers come from Japan, but there has been increasing interest from Chinese carmakers, including Chery Automobile and Dongfeng Motor Corp.
GWM is China's largest producer of SUVs and one of the biggest producers of pickups.
The company plans a live broadcast of its automotive innovations this Saturday through GWM Thailand Facebook to keep its local customers and prospective buyers abreast of new technology. The presentation is from the GWM booth during the 2020 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.
GWM vehicles are exported to more than 100 countries and the firm has sales networks in about 80.
Europe, Central and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia are its major export markets.