Toyota seeks EV infrastructure support
Giant Japanese car maker Toyota Motor Corporation is poised to invest in electric vehicle (EV) production here but wants the Thai government to develop a supportive infrastructure first.
Soichiro Okudaira, senior managing officer and chief technical officer for Asian Oceania and China, said Toyota was confident of building a manufacturing facility here for hybrid vehicles and EVs, pending the Thai government's policy on them.
However, Thailand has yet to develop electric charging stations for drivers.
In a bid to develop Thailand as a manufacturing hub for pickup trucks, hybrids and EVs, Thailand's National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and the Science and Technology Ministry signed a record of discussions last month with the Japan External Trade Organization and the Japanese embassy.
The deal will focus on upgrading human resources and research and development (R&D) in Thai industries.
NESDB secretary-general Arkhom Termpitayapaisith said Japanese companies were willing to promote Thailand as a production hub for one-tonne pickup trucks, hybrids and EVs if the Thai government offered import tariff and excise tax waivers for imported car prototypes and auto parts yet to be made in Thailand.
Japanese companies proposed the Thai government develop testing centres for crash, high-speed, wind-tunnel, durability and emissions tests.
They also asked Thailand to contribute funding for car companies to set up those testing centres.
Mr Okudaira said Toyota established its regional R&D unit in Thailand in 2007 with an investment of 1.3 billion baht to support its production of pickup trucks, passenger cars, hybrids and EVs. The unit, named Toyota Motor Asia Pacific Engineering and Manufacturing Co (TMAP-EM), is located in Samut Prakan and can develop 52% of parts for Toyota's hybrid and EVs that are made locally such as the Prius and Camry.
"TMAP-EM is efficient enough to support Thailand's automotive industry in the long term," Mr Okudaira said.
"We know this because our pickup truck Hilux Revo now uses 95% local content, up from 87% in 2007."
The Land Transport Department reported only 60,000 or 1% of Thailand's 6 million vehicles are classified as hybrid or hybrid-electric vehicles.
More importantly, most parts for hybrid cars and EVs must be imported, particularly lithium batteries, as domestic manufacturers have not been able to meet the minimum requirement of 40% local content. Eco-car makers use more than 70% local content.