Tesla launches two electric cars in Thailand

Tesla Inc launched two electric vehicle (EV) models in Thailand on Wednesday, formalizing its entry into the regional automotive hub long dominated by Japanese automakers.

The American manufacturer Tesla launched on Wednesday in a large shopping center in Bangkok two electric vehicles, the price of which is between 1.7 million baht and 2.5 million baht (between €46,300 and €68,100).

This launch comes as Thailand recently embarked on a comprehensive plan to promote electric cars, offering tax breaks and subsidies over several years to encourage consumers to adopt it and manufacturers to produce it on its territory.

Tesla plans to start selling its electric cars in Thailand through online channels. The first deliveries are expected at the beginning of next year.

Fierce competition from Chinese brands

But competition promises to be fierce from Chinese brands such as BYD and Great Wall Motors, which have multiplied showrooms and distribution partners in recent years to reach local customers with electric vehicles available from 800,000 baht (€21,800).

Tesla has not provided details on its sales targets.

Thailand is Asia’s fourth-largest auto assembly and export hub for groups such as Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd. About 1.5 to 2 million vehicles come out of factories in the kingdom each year, of which about half are exported.

The Thai market, still very focused on fossil fuel vehicles, is undisputedly dominated by Japanese brands – only Ford has cautiously managed to place one of its vehicles (Ford Ranger) in the top 5 of the best sellers in the kingdom in recent ten years apart from Japanese manufacturers.

The adoption of electric vehicles is gradually gaining momentum, with around 7,000 new battery electric vehicles registered in the first ten months of 2022, compared to 2,000 last year, according to the Thailand Automotive Institute.

Tesla’s launch Wednesday at Siam Paragon, one of central Bangkok’s busiest malls, drew a crowd interested in the models on offer.

I am delighted. The price differences are not significant (compared to other brands of electric vehicles),” said Thitipun Paisirikul, a 36-year-old office worker.

The Thai government aims for at least 30% of the kingdom’s car production to be electric vehicles by 2030.

Thailand’s state-owned oil group PTT this year announced a $1 billion joint venture with Taiwan’s Foxconn to produce electric vehicles in Thailand.

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