Imports of electric vehicles (EVs), especially from China, are intensifying competition in the domestic car market, which could lead to a price war with cars powered by internal combustion engines (ICE).
Competition has increased over the past two months and should strengthen in the coming years as 2-3 Chinese car companies plan to market their EVs in Thailand under the investment incentive policy launched by the government, said Ratthakarn Jutasen, managing director of Ford Thailand.
Prices of certain Chinese EVs are lower than those of ICE cars produced domestically because of lower production costs.
This is causing ICE car manufacturers to adjust their businesses, though it is difficult to cut their prices to the same level as EVs, said Mr Ratthakarn.
"This is a tough competition because the Thai economy has not fully recovered and the country is dealing with high household debt and interest rates," he said.
Mr Ratthakarn was speaking during the Bangkok International Motor Expo, which opens to the public today and runs until Dec 11.
He said he predicts total EV sales in Thailand this year of 90,000 units, rising to 140,000 units in 2024.
Roughly 78% of EV sales are in Bangkok and 22% are upcountry, said Mr Ratthakarn.
This indicates Ford has an opportunity to sell more pickups, the company's main product, in many provinces where motorists still prefer ICE vehicles, he said.
Up to 60% of Ford vehicles are sold upcountry, with the rest sold in the capital.
In Thailand, the pickup segment has turned sluggish, with overall sales decreasing more than 30% this year, mainly attributed to banks' stricter lending criteria as household debt is elevated.
Ford reported sales of pickups decreased by 20%.
The US automaker is developing electric pickups to catch the EV trend, aiming to market them in Thailand at the right time, said Mr Ratthakarn.
Tri Petch Isuzu Co, the local distributor of Isuzu vehicles, also plans to produce battery-run pickups in Thailand by 2025. The company wants to export electric pickups to the European market first.
The Japanese automaker is deciding on a budget, models and production capacity for the electric pickup project, said Takashi Hata, president of Tri Petch Isuzu.
Demand for electric pickups is not high in Thailand, he said.
In the electric luxury car segment, sales are projected at 40,000 units this year, up from 30,000-35,000 units the past few years, said Teeraphong Rodloy, country manager of Wearnes Automotive Thailand, an importer and distributor of British sports cars.
"The luxury car segment is not affected by weak consumer purchasing power," he said.