By Devjyot Ghoshal
BANGKOK (Reuters) – China’s Great Wall Motor Co Ltd is finalizing plans to invest up to $30 million to set up a new battery assembly plant in Thailand, where it will start manufacturing a compact electric car next year, according to a company official.
The Hebei-based company also plans to set up a research and development center in Thailand that could work on battery-powered pickup trucks, said Narong Sritalayon, managing director of Great Wall Motor Thailand in an interview.
The automaker has 10 similar development centers around the world that focus on other technologies. Investment in Thailand, which aims to become a regional electric vehicle (EV) production hub, will depend in part on government subsidies, Narong added.
Although China’s Great Wall and BYD Co Ltd have made significant investments in Thailand, Japanese automakers including Toyota Motor Corp and Isuzu Motors Ltd dominate the country’s domestic auto market, with pickup trucks accounting for more than half of sales last year.
“I think there’s a lot we can learn from Thailand’s single market for pickup trucks,” Narong said.
Thailand, the world’s tenth-largest car-making economy, aims to use tax cuts and subsidies to help convert around 30% of the country’s annual output of 2.5 million vehicles to electric vehicles. by 2030, according to a government plan.
Great Wall launched its Ora Good Cat compact electric vehicle in Thailand at the end of 2021. It became the country’s best-selling electric vehicle last year, with the cheapest variant listed on Great Wall’s website at a price of 828 500 Thai baht ($24,475) after a government grant of 230,500 baht. .
Great Wall entered Thailand in 2020 after taking over a former General Motors Co plant which currently manufactures two of its Haval hybrid vehicles for sale in the country.
It plans to start production of the Ora Good Cat in Thailand next year and will seek to source components locally, including batteries, to meet the requirements of the government’s incentive program for automakers, said Narong said.
A pack assembly facility could require an investment of between 500 million and 1 billion Thai baht, with the exact size depending on a plan expected to be finalized within the next six months, Narong said.
SVOLT Energy Technology, a subsidiary of Great Wall that has expanded its presence in other markets such as Europe, will produce battery assembly packs in Thailand in the initial phase, the company said.
But the facility could be upgraded for battery cell production with additional investment depending on demand and support from the Thai government, Great Wall added.
“We could also become a contract battery maker for other (car makers),” Narong said. “It would also increase the capacity of the battery factory.”
China’s CATL is supplying a 63.1 kilowatt-hour battery for the Ora Good Cat 500 Ultra variant imported to Thailand, but Great Wall said it has no current plans to buy batteries from CATL for its next production run. local.
Thailand is in talks with CATL – the world’s largest battery supplier with a 37% market share – and other battery makers to build production facilities in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
($1 = 33.8500 baht)
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Jamie Freed)