Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor (GWM) plans to start production of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at its manufacturing plant in Thailand within 2023, as the country is expected to be a major EV production base in the future.
GWM is also in talks with partners including the state energy authorities as well as real estate developers and shopping malls to expand the number of charging stations to serve BEV drivers.
Elliot Zhang, president of Great Wall Motor Asean and Thailand, said the company will focus on the Thai market and export BEVs to other countries.
"Thailand has high potential for the automotive industry and the government is also supporting the new generation of vehicles," he said.
The company is in the process of drafting its business plan and preparing manufacturing facilities for new car production.
Despite the pandemic's impact on the automotive industry, EVs are a rising global trend as many countries are becoming more proactive about CO2 emissions from oil-powered cars. They want vehicles that are more environmentally friendly to cope with global warming.
Mr Zhang said the company will continue to invest in Thailand and he believes prospective car buyers will respond well to the GWM brand.
GWM's 22-billion-baht investment budget will be used for EV production, a factory upgrade in Rayong and renewable business.
The company has not set the domestic sales target in Thailand because it wants to build a brand image first.
Takeshi Kasahara, vice president of Toyota Motor Thailand, said the company also plans to launch new EV models for the domestic market.
"We are conducting a feasibility study on EVs suitable for the local market and Thais," he said.
Toshiaki Maekawa, president of Tri Petch Isuzu Sales, the local distributor for the Japanese automaker, expects domestic car sales in 2021 will increase by 9-10% to 860,000-870,000 units year-on-year.
He based the forecast on a range of factors: from the state economic stimulus measures to marketing campaigns launched by car companies during the 12-day Bangkok International Motor Show, which starts today.
"This year's sales will be moderate. I think it's okay if we can stay at this level," said Mr Maekawa.
In the first two months of this year, domestic car sales in Thailand were recorded at 114,506 units, a drop of 18.2% compared with the same period last year, according to Isuzu.
Last year, sales in the pickup segment stood at 364,932 units, accounting for 46.1% of total car sales.
Mr Maekawa expects the numbers will slightly increase this year to 376,000 units.
In January and February this year, Isuzu's pickup sales were 26,313 units, commanding a 50.4% market share.
Isuzu is worried about the ongoing crisis, especially after learning of reports of virus mutations that threaten to deal a further blow to the global economy.