Toyota will soon test a new electric pickup truck in Thailand, an executive says, its latest effort to boost EV sales in a country where rising competition from Chinese rivals challenges its dominance.
Chinese electric vehicle (EV) makers are rapidly gaining market share in Thailand and have pledged some $1.5 billion in investment capital for new manufacturing facilities, part of their drive to expand overseas amid slowing domestic sales.
Pras Ganesh, executive vice-president of Toyota Daihatsu Engineering & Manufacturing, said its engineers were working on adapting its electric pickups to local conditions and building up EV R&D capacity in Thailand, one of the company’s five global R&D centres.
The world’s top-selling automaker unveiled the electric version of its popular HiLux pickup last year but hasn’t said yet when its commercial sales would begin.
Its launch in Thailand would mark a fresh attempt by Toyota to counter mounting Chinese competition there after sales of its bz4X electric SUV, which began last year, were dwarfed by sales of Chinese rivals including BYD and Great Wall Motor.
Pickup trucks are critical to Thailand’s auto market, accounting for nearly half of all vehicle sales last year. Toyota, according to the research firm MarkLines, had a 39% share in the one-ton pickup segment in the first nine months of this year, behind market leader Isuzu with 46%.
Across all Thai automotive segments, Toyota is the market leader with 34% of new vehicle sales.
Ganesh said a small batch of battery EV pickups would be trialled in Pattaya early next year and tested for use as songtaews — pickups that are commonly modified for use as taxis.
“We will first start looking at public transit,” he told Reuters, adding Toyota is also considering testing other EV pickups for deployments including last-mile delivery services.
EVs are fast gaining traction in Thailand, where they are likely to account for just under 9% of total vehicle sales this year, according to the research firm BMI.
Toyota, and its group companies, have invested nearly $7 billion in Thailand over the last decade, and the carmaker told Reuters in July that it was considering producing EVs in the country.
For the current fiscal year ending March 2024, however, Toyota lowered its forecast for global battery EV sales by 39% partly due to limited vehicle lineups.
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