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Chinese Electric Vehicle Investments Flood Thailand

Chinese Electric Vehicle Investments Flood Thailand

Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers are pouring into Thailand, with investments up to US$1.44 billion in production facilities in Southeast Asia’s biggest automaking hub that has long been dominated by Japanese companies. Japan appears to be set to be dethroned by China.

This big wave of investment has been backed by Thailand’s government, which has rolled out incentives and courted Chinese firms, with a target to convert about 30% of the country’s annual vehicle production into EVs by 2030.

Investments Galore

China’s Great Wall Motor made an early punt on Thailand in 2020 when it acquired a factory from General Motors, where it will spend THB22.6 billion (US$647.38 million) turning it into a regional production centre for EV and hybrid cars. The automaker will start producing its popular compact Ora Good Cat EV in Thailand next year, and is also bringing in its subsidiaries MIND Electronics, HYCET and Nobo Auto that make electronics, powertrains and seating.

Rival SAIC Motor, which owns MG Motor and has a partnership with Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, launched its first EV in the country in 2019. It is pumping in THB500 million to expand its existing plant for EV parts and battery manufacturing, the company announced in April.

Heavyweight BYD is investing THB17.9 billion to set up a new facility in Thailand that will start producing 150,000 passenger cars per year from 2024, some of which will be exported to Southeast Asia and Europe. China’s Hozon New Energy Automobile is also working with Thailand’s Bangchan General Assembly to locally produce the electric NETA V model starting next year.

More Investments Coming For Thailand

Several deals are also in the pipeline, according to the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI), which has been pursuing Chinese automakers. State-owned Chongqing Changan Automobile, which has partnerships with Ford and Mazda, will invest THB9.8 billion to set up its first right-hand drive EV factory outside China, according to the BOI.

GAC Aion, a subsidiary of state-owned automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) is planning to invest more than THB6.4 billion to produce EVs in Thailand, the BOI disclosed. China’s Chery Automobile, which rolled out a self-developed EV in 2009, is “very interested” to invest in Thailand and plans to enter the market early next year, according to the BOI. Chinese automaker Geely is also in the early stages of planning an entry into Thailand, Reuters reported in May, including weighing models for import and local manufacturing.

Chinese EV’s Rising Popularity

The influx of Chinese models appears to be helping to boost the popularity of EVs in Thailand, the second-largest car market in Southeast Asia. In H1 2023, over 31,000 EVs were registered in Thailand, more than triple the number for all of 2022, the BOI cited industry data. The price gap between EVs and combustion engine cars has also narrowed, in part because of government subsidies.

The cheapest variant of Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat – Thailand’s best-selling EV last year – currently costs around THB828,500 , while Hozon’s NETA V costs THB549,000, according to company websites. Toyota’s Corolla Altis is priced at THB894,000 and the Yaris Ativ at THB549,000.

Chinese lithium-ion battery-maker SVOLT Energy Technology Company Ltd. kicked off the construction of its Thailand factory, the company revealed. SVOLT Energy Technology expects to complete construction by the end of the year and estimates the facility will have an annual capacity of 60,000 battery packs, according to a statement. 

The factory will have two production lines, one for making soft-pack battery packs for hybrid vehicles and another for short-blade battery packs used in plug-in hybrids and pure electric-vehicles (EVs), the company added. The surge of Chinese EV manufacturers into Thailand marks a significant shift in the landscape of Southeast Asia’s largest automaking hub.

With investments soaring to a remarkable US$1.44 billion in production facilities, long-held dominance by Japanese companies is being challenged. Japan was formerly the biggest investor for Thailand. The Thai government’s proactive support, through incentives and targeted efforts to attract Chinese firms, underscores their commitment to embrace the electric vehicle revolution.

As the country strives to convert 30% of its annual vehicle production into EVs by 2030, Thailand’s automotive industry is poised for a transformative journey, propelled by the influx of Chinese investments and the collective vision of a greener and sustainable future.


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