Sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to reach 60,000-70,000 units this year, exceeding the target of 40,000 units, as demand soars even though banks are enforcing stricter loan criteria which threatens to affect domestic car manufacturing, says the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).
EV imports from China are driving BEV sales, with new models and marketing campaigns attracting buyers, said Surapong Paisitpatanapong, vice-chairman of the FTI and spokesman for the FTI's Automotive Industry Club.
"Chinese BEVs have dominated the EV market in Thailand and their sales are expected to keep growing," he said.
The club expects there will be more locally-made versions of EVs sold in the market next year. The number of EVs assembled at factories in Thailand is currently low.
The rise in imports of EVs from China, along with an environment in which it is more difficult to get a loan for a car, caused the club to consider revising down Thailand's car manufacturing target in November, said Mr Surapong.
The imported EVs affected the domestic production of internal combustion engine-powered cars, which is tending to decrease as electric mobility technology becomes increasingly popular.
Worries over a high level of household debt and subsequent non-performing loans had also caused commercial banks to be more cautious in granting loans.
According to the club, domestic car sales in August fell by 11.6% year-on-year to 60,234 units, with sales of pure pickups experienced a decrease of 36.3% to 19,561 units.
The decrease resulted mainly from financial institutions' stricter criteria in the granting of loans.
However, total car sales in the country from January to August managed to rise by 6.2% year-on-year to 524,784 units.
If the club has to adjust its 2023 forecast for the country's car manufacturing, the new target will be lower than 1.9 million units, caused by a drop in car production for the domestic market.
Earlier, the club reduced its car production target to 1.9 million, down from 1.95 million, as domestic car sales turned sluggish following the decision by banks to be stricter in granting loans for cars.
Car manufacturing for the domestic market was expected to decline to 850,000 units, down from the previous projection of 900,000 units, while the production target for export remains unchanged at 1.05 million units.
Car exports in August increased by 29.4% year-on-year to 87,555 units, driven by new purchase orders from Australia, the Middle East, Europe as well as North America and South America.
From January to August, car exports rose by 19.5% year-on-year to 724,423 units.