BoI gives blessing to B30bn in plans
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BoI gives blessing to B30bn in plans

Japanese carmakers stake big money on EVs

An assembly line at a Nissan plant in Samut Prakan province.
An assembly line at a Nissan plant in Samut Prakan province.

The Board of Investment (BoI) Wednesday approved promotional privileges for four large-scale investment applications worth nearly 30 billion baht, including those for two Japanese carmakers worth 16.78 billion for electric vehicles (EVs).

Secretary-general Duangjai Asawachintachit said the board meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed off on promotional privileges for EV investment projects for Nissan Motor Thailand and Honda Automobile Thailand, worth 10.96 billion and 5.82 billion baht, respectively.

The approvals came after the BoI had frozen all EV applications from carmakers for almost a year.

Wednesday's decision raised the number of investment projects in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to five worth a combined 37.08 billion baht.

Mrs Duangjai said the BoI earlier approved investment applications for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) worth 19 billion baht by Toyota Motor Thailand and two plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) projects for Mercedes-Benz and BMW worth 600 million and 700 million baht, respectively.

The BoI has also approved privileges for six projects worth 5.4 billion baht to make high-density batteries, as well as those for battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Mrs Duangjai said Nissan Motor will make HEVs and batteries for electric vehicles worth 10.96 billion baht at a factory in Bang Sao Thong district, Samut Prakan province.

Nissan will make hybrid electric vehicles based on its e-Power eco-friendly technology and plans to use domestic raw materials worth 15.92 billion baht annually.

Mrs Duangjai said Honda Automobile is planning commercial production of locally made hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), on top of batteries for electric vehicles, at its factories in Ayutthaya and Prachin Buri. The company aims to use domestic raw materials worth 2.76 billion baht a year.

The company also plans to manufacture other parts locally to substitute for imports.

"Eight car firms have submitted investment applications to the BoI and the agency has already granted approval to five," Mrs Duangjai said.

In related news, the board Wednesday approved promotional privileges for Thai AirAsia X, the long-haul low-fare airline, to expand its aviation service, worth 9.25 billion baht. The investment will be allocated largely to rent six Airbus A330s with 377 seats each. The company also plans to roll out new aviation routes at home and abroad, including for China, Hong Kong and Australia.

The board also granted privileges Wednesday to Mars Petcare Thailand Co to ramp up pet food production with an investment of 3.6 billion baht at a factory in Amata City, Chon Buri.

Mrs Duangjai said the board Wednesday approved a request from the Science and Technology Ministry to grant privileges for private investment at Science Park, including R&D, testing, automation and development of high-value software.

Investors are eligible to enjoy privileges similar to those provided to projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi), with construction expected to be completed by 2022.

The BoI reported Wednesday that it had approved investment applications for 754 projects in the first six months of this year, up 22% year-on-year, with investment of 284.6 billion baht -- equal to last year.

Of the total applications, 316 projects were in the 10 targeted industries, accounting for 46% of total applications worth 224.15 billion baht or 82% of total investment.

Applications in the EEC cover 142 projects worth 183.23 billion baht, up 122% from the same period last year.

"The BoI is confident there will be more applications this half than last, achieving its 720-billion-baht target," Mrs Duangjai said.

Honda Automobile Thailand said in a release Wednesday that the company's local executives will update the manufacturing plan and business outlook for HEVs on Aug 2.

Honda said a 5.821-billion-baht budget can be allocated to both its Ayutthaya and Prachin Buri plants, with an annual production capacity of 300,000 and 120,000 units respectively.

Peter Galli, vice-president for communications at Nissan Motor Thailand, told the Bangkok Post that the plant in Samut Prakan can potentially be used to assemble Nissan e-Power batteries -- in line with Nissan's future mobility vision.

"We are making it a reality through pioneering products and technologies like e-Power, which is a pragmatic, immediate step toward electrification in growing markets like Thailand," Mr Galli said.

He declined to disclose further information on the company's e-Power manufacturing plans in Thailand.

Yutaka Sanada, senior vice-president for Asia and Oceania at Nissan Motor, said earlier that Thailand was one of Nissan's prime candidates to house the EV facility because its Yokohama-based parent firm had invested heavily in factories in Samut Prakan, which now have production capacity of 370,000 vehicles a year.

Nissan began assembly in late 2014 of the X-Trail Hybrid, which is sold only in Thailand.

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