Chinese carmaker BYD has enjoyed booming electric vehicle sales in Thailand, which is the company’s biggest foreign market.
And the popularity of BYD’s EVs has encouraged Rever Automotive, the group’s sole distributor in the Kingdom, to dramatically expand its business.
Rever said it will triple its dealerships in Thailand in two years in a bid to cement the Chinese automaker’s dominant sales performance.
BYD overtook Tesla as the world’s top EV maker in the fourth quarter last year, and the expansion in Thailand underscores its global push – especially in markets where its US rival has yet to become a major vendor – as EV sales growth slows in its home market China.
Rever Automotive, the distributor that helped launch BYD in Thailand in late 2022, will add 200 dealerships by end-2025, expand commercial vehicles offerings and enter new passenger car segments, CEO Pratarnwong Phornprapha said.
“By the end of this year, we’ll have 200. And the next year, we’re planning for another 100,” Pratarnwong said.
“I think around 300 for us is a healthy number.”
Rever currently has around 100 outlets, establishing BYD as the dominant carmaker in the fast-growing Thai EV market with a 40% market share, according to Pratarnwong.
BYD sold a total 3 million passenger vehicles in 2023, with more than 90% of those going into the China market, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association. Overseas sales amounted to around 242,000 units.
BYD to open Thai factory this year
Thailand accounted for around 20% of BYD’s foreign sales in the third quarter, according to research firm Counterpoint. And as the group’s largest overseas market, BYD it is also investing 17.9 billion baht ($504 million) to build a factory scheduled to open this year.
EV sales in Thailand made up a little over 7% of all passenger vehicle sales in the country in the third quarter of 2023, Counterpoint data also showed, but it is one of the fastest growing EV markets in Southeast Asia, aided by government subsidies and policies.
Late last year, the Thai government approved a scaled down subsidy package for the EV industry, although still offering up to 100,000 baht ($2,764) per vehicle and lower import duties and excise taxes.
Overall, Thailand plans to convert about 30% of its annual production of 2.5 million vehicles into EVs by 2030 and has attracted more than $1.44 billion in investments from Chinese auto companies.
BYD plant also planned in Indonesia
BYD has been outperforming other automakers in Southeast Asia’s EV market, bolstered by partnerships with local distributors and affordable models such as the Atto 3 SUV, which was the region’s bestselling electric auto in the third quarter.
On Thursday, the company unveiled three battery EV models in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, where BYD is also planning to invest $1.3 billion in an assembly plant.
In Thailand, its efforts to expand product offerings are set to pose a challenge to Japanese rivals, including Toyota Motor Corp, that have long dominated the country’s auto market.
“Roughly, I think we have to get into MPVs, we have to get into bigger size SUVs, and smaller size sedans, bigger size sedans,” Pratarnwong said, referring to multi-purpose and sport utility vehicles and outlining the need to expand BYD’s offerings.
More models, buses planned
Rever currently offers three BYD EV models in Thailand: the Seal sedan, the Atto 3 SUV and the Dolphin hatchback.
Beyond passenger cars, Rever is looking to make inroads into commercial fleets using BYD vehicles and technology, including for taxis, short-haul trucks and vans, and buses.
Thailand had over 81,000 registered taxis as of September 2023, according to government data, and Rever is aiming to capture 40% of the new vehicles entering that market, said Pratarnwong.
Rever is also offering the BYD T3 van for limited distance deliveries that picked up during the Covid-19 pandemic, Rever vice-CEO Pratarnporn Phornprapha said.
“There’s a lot of short haul deliveries going on,” she said. “It’s a huge chunk which we wanted to focus on.”
Pratarnwong and Pratarnporn are siblings hailing from the Phornprapha family that established the Siam Motors Group (SMG), which helped develop Thailand’s automotive industry. Rever is independent from SMG, Pratarnwong has previously said.
A Rever subsidiary is also building a bus production facility that will use BYD technology, with the first chassis likely to roll out in the third quarter, Pratarnwong said.
“This year will be the year that we properly attack the commercial market,” he said.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard