Japanese automaker Isuzu Motors plans to build a factory to make electric pickups in Thailand if local demand for the vehicles increases significantly, says Tri Petch Isuzu, the local distributor of cars under the Isuzu brand.
The Yokohama-based company believes Thailand has the potential to become its electric vehicle (EV) export base if the EV market, especially its pickup segment, continues to grow.
However, the company has yet to finalise when it will embark on the electric pickup business in Thailand as this largely depends on demand for the cars.
“We are developing an electric pickup and plan to debut it in the European market within 2025. Europe will be the first region where we sell EVs,” said Takashi Hata, president of Tri Petch Isuzu.
The company chose Europe because the European Union is strongly determined to achieve carbon neutrality, a balance between carbon dioxide emissions and absorption, in a move to cope with global warming, which is blamed for causing climate change.
“After Europe, we plan to sell electric pickups in other regions,” said Mr Hata.
In Thailand, internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered pickups are more popular than the electric versions.
“Domestic demand for electric pickups is lower than that in the passenger car segment,” he said.
Besides electric pickups, Isuzu will also consider investing in a battery recycling plant in Thailand to deal with the growing number of used EV batteries.
“We will not leave Thailand,” said Mr Hata, stressing the company’s earlier rejection of a news story that Isuzu will relocate its production facility to Indonesia.
“Thailand is our production base for domestic sales and export. We have made investments here for 66 years so far.”
Since 1957, the company has produced up to 6 million cars in Thailand and currently employs more than 20,000 workers.
Mr Hata agreed with Prime Minister Srettha Thavision who, during his meeting with the Federation of Thai Industries, said the government will continue to support ICE businesses and, at the same time, further develop the EV industry.
Companies in the ICE supply chain need time and state help to adapt their businesses in response to disruptions in the automotive industry, brought by the electric mobility technology.
There are currently a total of 600,000 workers in the ICE segment.
From January to August, Isuzu’s sales in the domestic market decreased by 29% year-on-year to 83,654 units. It gained a 44% market share in the pickup segment.
“High household debt and banks’ stricter criteria granting car loans affected pickup sales in the domestic market,” said Takeshi Kasahara, vice-president of Tri Petch Isuzu.
Last year, Isuzu’s domestic sales stood at 175,425 cars.