Chinese EV Makers Gain Market Share in Thailand and Southeast Asia, Challenging Traditional Automakers

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There is a growing presence and market share of Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Chinese EV makers, such as BYD, XPeng, and Great Wall Motors, are rapidly expanding their sales in Thailand, challenging established market leaders like Toyota, Isuzu, and Ford.

Thailand, one of the largest markets in Southeast Asia, has prioritized developing its EV market.

In 2023, BYD sold 30,650 EVs in Thailand, followed by 12,777 sold by Neta, a brand of Chinese electric vehicle maker Hozon Auto. They were trailed by Tesla, British brand MG, and Chinese car maker Great Wall Motor.

The growth of Chinese EVs in Thailand can be attributed to a public initiative announced in February 2022, which includes subsidies of up to 150,000 baht (S$5,527) per EV, as well as related tax breaks.

The Chinese government’s substantial supportive policies have driven the boom in the country’s EV industry. However, with the government gradually reducing EV subsidies, it will depend on how Chinese companies adapt to the market while maintaining their advantages in prices and R&D. Legacy carmakers, especially those from Japan, are also racing to catch up with new and affordable EVs.

Chinese investments in Southeast Asia’s EV market can be seen as a growth of its soft power in the region. However, this remains to be seen, as it may depend on whether Chinese EV and EV-related manufacturers can still lead the market, how they adapt to the market while maintaining their advantages in prices and R&D, and how they make critical technological breakthroughs, especially in semiconductors for EVs.

The Chinese government’s willingness or capability to use EVs and EV-related investment as an economic statecraft and whether it will risk pushing Southeast Asian countries to take sides amid the intensifying US-China rivalry may also play a role.

China could leverage its EV dominance and other clean energy investments to win over partners, especially in the Global South, where many countries, including Southeast Asian states, are prioritizing climate change on their national and global agendas.