Thailand

Mitsubishi applies for BoI's frozen EV programme

Executives stand in front of Pajero Sport, the 5 millionth vehicle produced by Mitsubishi in Thailand. From left, Japanese Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation chief executive Osamu Masuko and Morikazu Chokki, president and chief executive of Mitsubishi Motors Thailand. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

Japan's Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) is the eighth car manufacturer to join the Board of Investment's (BoI) electric vehicle (EV) scheme, even though the BoI has frozen applications after awarding only one permit to Toyota since mid-2017.

Requests are piling up at the BoI's door as unexplained freeze on EV applications continues.

Applications for the EV scheme to the BoI will expire by Dec 28, 2018 for two EV versions -- plug-in hybrid EVs and battery EVs -- while applications for hybrid EV ended last year.

There are four Japanese car makers applying for hybrid EVs -- Toyota, Honda, Mazda and Suzuki -- while Nissan has yet to decide which EV type it wants to manufacture.

Two German carmakers -- Mercedes-Benz and BMW -- have decided to join plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) and battery EVs (BEVs).

Osamu Masuko, MMC's chief executive, said the company aims to start with the plug-in hybrid EV version because EV charging stations in Thailand are still not available to motorists.

"Once the country has plenty of EV charging stations, battery EVs will be added to our timeline," he said.

"Until December, we are making our decision on EV models and investment details, which we expect to disclose very soon."

On the global market, the Tokyo-based parent sells three EV models: PHEV Outlander sport utility vehicle, and two BEVs, i-MiEV and Minicab-MiEV.

But Mr Masuko said even though Nissan and Mitsubishi are in their global alliance together with Renault, Mitsubishi will apply separately for Thai EV scheme.

He said the EVs have become a global trend not only in developed countries but also emerging markets.

Mr Masuko expects the trend will soon penetrate Asean countries, including Thailand, faster than many carmakers projected.

He said Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines have large populations in this region to deal with EV penetration.

"Our concern is to balance conventional cars and EVs because once EVs make up the majority of the market and conventional cars need to be phased out, we will have to shut down our engine plant, axeing many employees," said Mr Masuko.

In a related development, Mitsubishi Motors Thailand celebrated its 5 millionth car produced at its facility in Laem Chabang, Chon Buri province.

Of the total output, Mitsubishi exported 3.7 million units, both completely built-up cars and knocked-down kits, to 120 countries worldwide. The carmaker is the second largest car exporter in Thailand after Toyota.

Mitsubishi Thailand operates three production facilities and one engine factory in the Laem Chabang Industrial Estate. It also runs the first overseas proving ground outside Japan in Chon Buri's Sri Racha district.

For finished cars, three plants have a capacity of 424,000 units per year while MMTh Engine Co makes 502,000 petrol and diesel engines per year.

Mitsubishi produced 2 million units in 2009, 3 million units in 2013 and 4 million units in 2015.

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