BYD opens EV factory in Thailand, first in Southeast Asia

RAYONG: BYD opened an electric vehicle plant in Thailand today, the automaker's first factory in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing regional EV market where it has become the dominant player.

"Thailand has a clear EV vision and is entering a new era of auto manufacturing," BYD CEO and president Wang Chuanfu said at the opening ceremony.

"We will bring technology from China to Thailand."

The BYD plant is part of a wave of investment worth more than US$1.44 billion from Chinese EV makers who are setting up factories in Thailand, helped by government subsidies and tax incentives.

By 2030, Thailand aims to convert 30% of its annual production of 2.5 million vehicles into EVs, according to a government plan.

Thailand is a regional auto assembly and export hub, and has long been dominated by Japanese car makers such as Toyota Motor, Honda Motor Co and Isuzu Motors.

"BYD is using Thailand as a production hub for export to Asean and many other countries," said Narit Therdsteerasukdi, secretary-general of Thailand's Board of Investment, referring to the 10-nation Southeast Asian bloc.

The facility, announced two years ago, is worth US$490 million and will have a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year, including plug-in hybrids.

The sprawling factory in eastern Thailand's Rayong district will employ around 10,000 workers, some of whom were seen operating machinery today as under-construction bodies of BYD's Dolphin model moved through an assembly line.

"We will also assemble batteries and other important parts here," said Liu Xueliang, BYD's Asia Pacific general manager.

Thailand is the largest overseas market for BYD, which commanded a 46% share of country's EV segment in the first quarter and is the third-largest player in passenger cars, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Other EV rivals in the local market include Great Wall Motor, which also has a production facility in Thailand, and Tesla.

BYD dealers in Thailand, however, are under scrutiny following a consumer complaint over aggressive discounting that has left some buyers upset with how much they paid for their cars.
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