Thailand essential to GWM's ambitious plans

Thailand essential to GWM's ambitious plans

The nation along with Indonesia are key to its Asean expansion, writes Lamonphet Apisitniran

Mr Shi is helping GWM strategically grow its EV businesses in Asean.
Mr Shi is helping GWM strategically grow its EV businesses in Asean.

Chinese sport utility vehicle manufacturer Great Wall Motor (GWM) is determined to expand its electric vehicle (EV) business in Asean, with Thailand and Indonesia selected as its top destinations.

The company views Thailand, which is promoting EV production and consumption, as its major EV market, while Indonesia, which is rich in nickel, is suitable as a base for battery manufacturing, said Parker Shi, vice-president of GWM.

Nickel is a key raw material for the production of EV batteries.

Mr Shi said GWM is aware of challenges, ranging from tougher competition in the EV industry to the prolonged global semiconductor shortage, but he believes the company will be able to overcome any obstacles.


Thailand stands out among emerging EV markets because the government wants to make the country a regional EV hub. Given this stance, it should not be difficult for GWM to identify new business opportunities here, he said.

"The market for EVs is here. You can see many car brands are coming to compete in Thailand," said Mr Shi.

Thailand is well-known for its production of internal combustion engine cars, but now the world is focusing more on EVs. Thailand's clear policies are aimed at growing the EV industry, he said.

According to the Federation of Thai Industries, Thailand is the largest car manufacturer in Asean, ranks fifth in Asia and 11th in the world. Its status as a major centre for car production earned it the moniker "the Detroit of Asia".

The cabinet approved a package of incentives last February including tax cuts and subsidies to promote EV consumption and production between 2022-2023.

The subsidies range from 70,000-150,000 baht depending on the type and model of vehicle, while there is a lower excise tax and import duties on completely knocked-down and completely built-up units.

These factors help explain why many car companies, notably those from China, have invested in the EV business in Thailand, said Mr Shi.

"EVs are becoming more popular in Thailand and the world. That's why we spent a lot of money to invest and develop EVs and production facilities," he said.

GWM, which made its initial public offering on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong in 2003 and the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2011, currently has more than 80 subsidiaries and affiliates. The company employs more than 70,000 people.

Its total car sales, including non-EVs, exceeded 1 million units per year for six years running. GWM vehicles are sold in more than 60 markets.

During the 39th Thailand International Motor Expo held late last year, GWM received 1,995 bookings for all vehicle models available in the domestic market.

There were 1,212 bookings for the company's battery EVs -- ORA Good Cat and ORA Good Cat GT -- during the 12-day event.

Great Wall Motor (Thailand) said earlier it expects its first EV to roll off the production line at its assembly plant in Thailand next year.


Indonesia is another attractive investment destination for GWM because the country has a rich supply of nickel.

The company is not only looking for potential markets in which to sell its cars, but also seeking opportunities for battery business ventures, said Mr Shi.

He said GWM is conducting a feasibility study on a battery investment in Indonesia.

"Indonesia has huge deposits of nickel, which is ideal for making EV batteries. A battery business can strengthen the company's position in the EV supply chain," said Mr Shi.

Seeking new investment opportunities in Indonesia is in line with GWM's business strategy to expand its EV business, he said.


Rival automakers are also developing their EV businesses, which is intensifying competition.

Mr Shi is not concerned by stronger competition as it encourages manufacturers to develop technology and allows customers to gain from a highly competitive market in terms of the quantity and quality of products available.

The competition will improve the EV market, giving customers greater choice in terms of technology, design and price, he said.

"We will bring revolutionary technology here. Competition is not our great concern," said Mr Shi.

Among GWM's rivals are Chinese car companies that announced plans to invest in the Thai EV industry. They share the same aim of expanding their businesses in Asean.


The prolonged global shortage of semiconductors and the need to increase the number of EV charging facilities in Thailand continue to pose challenges for GWM in expanding its EV business.

The chip scarcity that began last year caused automakers to delay the delivery of their cars to customers in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Some firms to adjust their production plans by temporarily suspending the production of some models.

GWM is utilising many measures to deal with the problem. One is to buy semiconductors from a variety of suppliers worldwide, including those based in Australia and Africa.

Mr Shi said the company expects the semiconductor shortage to continue this year, noting it may ease by 2025.

Another challenge that may affect people's decision to purchase an EV is the limited availability of charging outlets.

He suggested the Thai government develop a network of EV charging stations if it wants the country's EV industry to post rapid growth.

"I think the number of EV charging stations in Thailand is growing too slowly. The government should make the charging issue the first priority for quick progress in EV infrastructure development," said Mr Shi.

Tax incentives could encourage companies to help the government increase the number of charging stations, he said.

"Charging facilities are expanding into more areas, including shopping malls in Bangkok, but the number of charging outlets is still low upcountry," said Mr Shi.

GWM announced last year it teamed up with PTT Oil and Retail Business Plc to jointly build EV charging stations at "lifestyle areas", including shopping malls, community malls and hotel chains, as people go to these areas to shop, dine and conduct business.

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