Thai electric car unveiled, car makers bullish on market

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Vera Automotive, a Thai automaker founded just over one year ago, unveiled its first electric cars last week, as foreign vehicle makers such as Mazda and Volvo said they were expecting much stronger sales in the Thai market in 2017.

The first domestic brand electric car, the Vera V1, does have some significant limitations. Its maximum speed is 62 miles an hour, and it can travel only 112 miles before needing a re-charge, which takes six hours to complete. But the company expects each successive version of its electric car will improve on performance.

Vera Automotive was founded in late 2015 by five Thai engineers from King Mongkut Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.  Their Vera V1 is a battery electric vehicle with a battery capacity of 22 kilowatts per hour, and can be registered with the Land Transport Department as a passenger car.

Thailand has a hugely successful automotive sector with virtually every major global car manufacturer producing vehicles in the Kingdom. One of the reasons for Thailand’s success in attracting investment has been that it has no national car competing against foreign vehicle makers and receiving preferential treatment from government.

Although much of what those global manufacturers produce is for export, they do compete in the domestic market, one of the largest in the Southeast region.

Mazda announced last week it had set a growth target of 18 percent for its vehicles in Thailand this year after scoring 8 percent growth last year. And Swedish automaker Volvo said it expects growth of between 5 percent and 10 percent in 2017 in Thailand for its trucks, busses and heavy equipment.

Overall, vehicle sales in the Kingdom declined by 4 percent last year, but sales of heavy-duty trucks were up 6.5 percent.

Yossapong Laoonual, chairman of the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand, said it was a very positive development for the Kingdom that it is creating its own electric vehicles. It is also positive that foreign electric vehicle makers are manufacturing in the Kingdom.

But he also said that as of now electric vehicles are unlikely to become popular with the general public because of their limitations. . “If you are a new company or brand, the best solution is to sell electric vehicles as a fleet to other agencies, which are easier to provide after-sales services for,” he said.

Nissan and Mitsubishi have said they plan to start marketing electric cars in Thailand this year, while Mercedes Benz is reported to have plans to introduce a hybrid vehicle. Auto industry sources told The Nation newspaper that Toyota is also considering building a hybrid car in Thailand for both domestic sale and export.

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