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China’s Great Wall Motor to double Thai EV investment
Published on: Saturday, November 19, 2022
By: Nikkei, FMT
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Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat subcompact is Thailand’s best-selling EV. (GWM pic)
BANGKOK: Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor vowed to double its investment in Thailand to maintain its place as one of the leading electric vehicle brands in the country as the competition closes in.

Since the company entered the Thai market two years ago, it has invested 12 billion baht (US$334 million) in producing EVs and employed more than 3,000 people, said Narong Sritalayon, managing director of Great Wall Motor (Thailand), in comments to Nikkei Asia.

“We plan to invest a total of 22.6 billion baht in Thailand,” he said. “We will produce not only EVs but also parts and EV infrastructure in order to push Thailand toward becoming the EV production hub of Southeast Asia.”

Great Wall entered Thailand in 2020 when it acquired an auto assembly plant from General Motors. It has sold 11,796 units so far this year/since establishing operations in the country. That has outpaced the 2021 forecast of the Federation of Thai Industries, which expected sales of all EV brands to total around 10,000 units in 2022.

But analysts have been far more optimistic.

TTB Analytics, a unit of TMB Thanachart Bank, forecast EV sales in Thailand would reach 63,600 units by year-end, up 539% from 2021, supported by a government push to increase demand.

Between January and September, Great Wall sold 8,094 units of two popular models: the hybrid SUV compact HAVAL H6 and the subcompact EV Ora Good Cat. This has made Great Wall the biggest EV seller in Thailand.

Narong attributed the jump in EV sales to government subsidies that have made electrics more affordable in the hope of creating demand and eventually attracting more companies to start producing EVs.

In February, the government approved consumer subsidies of between 70,000 baht and 150,000 baht per vehicle, depending on the model and battery capacity.

In June, the government also cut import tariffs on EVs to 2% from 8% in exchange for promises from manufacturers to eventually bring EV production to Thailand. The policies are meant to help make Thailand the EV production hub of Asean and by 2030 raise the ratio of EVs to all vehicles sold in the country to 30%.

As demand is expected to grow, Great Wall plans to launch four new EV models next year, according to Narong.

He added that Great Wall will continue to develop EV technologies in order to make its assembly plant in Rayong Province a smart factory – the second such facility after one already operating in China. “We aim to set up our plant in Rayong to be an EV production hub of Asean,” Narong said, adding the plant has an annual capacity of 80,000 units.

“Around 60% of production would be for domestic sales with the remaining 40% for export,” Narong said. “We will stay firm on our goal to be the leading EV producer in Thailand. So, we not only produce EVs, but we will also build an EV ecosystem and infrastructure to help boost sustainable demand.”

On Monday, Great Wall officially launched a fast-charging station at the popular shopping district Siam Square and aimed to increase the number of fast-charging stations to 12,000 nationwide by 2030.

With government backing and strong demand for electric vehicles, Great Wall is not the only Chinese EV maker that has been attracted to Thailand. Others are also starting to enter the still nascent but growing Thai market.

This year, China’s top electric vehicle maker BYD has promised to make Thailand the location of its first production hub in Southeast Asia. The company has already bought a large land plot for an EV production facility with an annual capacity of 150,000 units.

Another Chinese EV maker is in talks with the Thai government to build an EV manufacturing plant in the much-hyped Eastern Economic Corridor, according to the country’s Board of Investment.

With more players throwing their hands in, competition is expected to heat up, an eventuality that does not faze Narong. “Competition is good because it will force us to develop products and technologies to match consumer demand,” he said. “That will eventually spur the entire market.”