While electric vehicles have taken the Thai automobile market by storm, it’s the more affordable EVs from China that’s making the biggest leaps in this market.
Although all EVs enjoy up to Bt150,000 government subsidy per vehicle, those imported from China aren’t susceptible to import duties like those from Europe, Japan or elsewhere, thanks to a Thai-Chinese FTA that allow Chinese EVs to evade the dreaded Thai auto import tax.
That explains the lower number of EV models from Europe and Japan being introduced to the Thai market. German manufacturers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well as Lexus from Japan, do offer electric cars here, but being luxury vehicles mean that they aren’t affordable, with Swedish automaker Volvo (which is ironically owned by Geely of China), offering more affordable models such as the newly-launched EX30 that comes with a starting price of Bt1.59 million.
Korean automaker Hyundai is offering the award-winning IONIQ 5 at the Motor Expo, retailing from Bt1.669-2.399 million, while the Elantra N is priced at a whopping Bt2.999 million, making it too costly to become a mass-seller.
Even Tesla, which has proven to be the popular choice among Thai EV enthusiasts, has decided to chop prices in order to be more competitive against Chinese EVs, which can be purchased for as little as Bt549,000 (Neta V).
At this year’s Motor Expo, car buyers are bombarded with attractively-priced Chinese EVs from Aion, MG, BYD, ORA (Great Wall Motor), NEX, Wuling and Changan, which is making its Thai premiere at the Motor Expo with two Deepal models.
Japanese players such as Toyota, the largest auto company in Thailand, has even decided to shy away from the EV limelight and enter the utility truck market instead with the Hilux Champ.
Being a derivative from the existing IMV project means that Toyota is able to lower development costs dramatically and offer a large number of variants and configurations for different uses ranging from commercial to lifestyle.
The Hilux Champ is based on the existing Hilux Revo platform, coming with three engine choices and two wheelbase lengths, but gets a totally new exterior design as well as console/door panel that is modern and appeals to Thai consumer preferences.
Apart from Toyota, other Japanese brands are also concentrating their efforts on non-EV products such as hybrid-powered vehicles.
Earlier this year Toyota started offering the hybrid version of its Yaris subcompact (Yaris Cross) apart from offering hybrid versions of other models in its lineup.
Arch rival Honda is also offering a large number of hybrids, the most recent being the new Accord midsized sedan.
Mitsubishi, although unsuccessful with its old-gen Outlander PHEV, is making big strides with the new Triton pickup truck, with more variants being offered at the Motor Expo.
Nissan too, is heavily dependent on its Kicks e:POWER model that features a hybrid powertrain, but at the same time is losing out to Chinese newcomers offering fully-electric models.
Mazda is also feeling the heat as it has yet to offer an EV or full hybrid. The Hiroshima-based manufacturer is passing time by offering 100 units of the Mazda6 sedan, which is imported and priced at Bt2.4 million, which is much higher than the competition such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Honda Accord.
Suzuki, which has been highly successful with affordable models like the Swift and Carry, does not have any hybrid or EV offerings and will have to work something out in order to maintain its market share in the Bt700,000-and-under neighborhood.
Commercial vehicle giant Isuzu, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be affected much as EV pickup trucks might not be the answer to Thai driving conditions. It has just introduced the D-MAX facelift and should be able to maintain ales momentum in the 1-ton pickup market with an updated product.
In terms of luxury vehicles, the Motor Expo is also the place to go for the latest offers, with the German “Big Three”, Porsche, Bentley, Lotus, Maserati, Jeep, Peugeot as well as Kia wooing visitors with their latest products.
A total of 40 automobile brands (and 23 motorcycle brands) are taking part in the Motor Expo this year, and being held in early December means that potential buyers will flock the show in order to place orders for new vehicles that could be delivered to them in early 2024.
Even for non-buyers, the event promises a large number of attractions including concept vehicles as well as colorful activities ranging from an aviation zone, marine zone, vintage cars zone, motorsport zone, car club gatherings as well as driving events like 4×4 school, automated driving and test drives.