WHA Group is targeting Chinese automaker BYD for industrial land sales as the company aims to operate a battery electric vehicle (BEV) assembly plant here in 2024, while hoping to establish an EV production base in Rayong.
The factory would be BYD's first EV production facility in Asean. The firm, which wants to use Thailand as a base to export cars to the region and Europe, sees bright prospects in this auto segment, though there is plenty of competition and concerns over an insufficient number of charging facilities.
WHA has clinched a deal to sell 600 rai of land at its newly built WHA Rayong 36 Industrial Estate to the Shenzhen-based automaker.
"It's a large plot compared with between 400-500 rai that WHA sold to other car companies," said Jareeporn Jarukornsakul, chairman and group chief executive of WHA Group, the parent firm of WHA Industrial Development Plc, which oversees industrial estate development business.
The land size is almost half of 1,281 rai of industrial land under WHA's first-phase development. The company plans to develop almost 500 rai of additional land in the second phase to serve more factories in the EV supply chain.
"We believe a lot of EV investors will follow," said Ms Jareeporn as she signed a land purchase agreement yesterday with Liu Xueliang, general manager of BYD Asia-Pacific auto sales division.
"We will turn Rayong 36 into a hub of EVs with a complete ecosystem for EV manufacturing."
Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao form the Eastern Economic Corridor, the country's high-tech industrial hub hosting 12 targeted S-curve industries, including new-generation cars.
Under a 17.8-billion-baht investment, BYD plans to build an EV manufacturing facility with annual production capacity of 150,000 EVs. The company will focus on BEVs but is still considering the possibility of making plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs), which run on both electricity and petrol.
Competition in the EV market is increasing as key manufacturers such as the Chinese sport utility vehicle manufacturer Great Wall Motor and SAIC Motor-CP and MG Sales (Thailand), the manufacturer and distributor of MG cars, are also pushing ahead with their plans to build EV assembly and battery production facilities in Thailand.
"I think it's too soon to assess the competitiveness of the car companies," said Mr Liu. "We first want to see Thai and Asean car buyers have more EV choices."
He said Thais have already experienced BYD technology when the firm brought in 101 EVs to serve as VIP taxis in 2018.
BYD, which was founded in 1995, decided to terminate its production of internal combustion engine-powered cars in 2022 and focuses only on BEVs and PHEVs.
BYD and WHA share a dream to help Thailand develop a full-fledged EV industry.
"BYD is 'Build Your Dreams'. I like this phrase because I have a dream to see Thailand become an EV hub not only in Asean but also in the world," said Ms Jareeporn.