Mercedes-Benz showed a S500e plug-in hybrid at last year’s Bangkok International Motor Show. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz Thailand has finally decided to join the government’s electric vehicle (EV) scheme after staying on the sidelines for five years.

But the company has not disclosed any further details, saying it plans to launch new models under the EV scheme sometime in 2018.

President and chief executive Michael Grewe said the company has applied to the Board of Investment (BoI) for two platforms — plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The application deadline for both is Dec 28.

“Mercedes-Benz is talking with government agencies and expects to finalise its plan very soon, so I cannot reveal an investment budget or future PHEV and BEV models,” he said.

“We have kept our relationship with our local partner — Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co [TAAP] — to assemble Mercedes-Benz cars over the long term, including for the schemes we have applied for.”

In the Thai market, Mercedes-Benz started assembling HEVs, the first EV technology, in 2013, working with TAAP in Samut Prakan. The plant has a maximum capacity of 40,000 cars per year, working for three full shifts.

Mercedes-Benz started to build PHEVs in Thailand from early 2016, while its HEV platform has been phased out.

Mr Grewe added Mercedes-Benz still assembles all electrified cars only for the domestic market, with no plans for export.

The company expects to get more benefits from the EV scheme in terms of declining prices after enjoying new excise taxes and furthering incentives for EV battery production instead of importing this core component from Germany.

“The government’s EV policy is the best automotive roadmap in Southeast Asia and it is also in a line with the Stuttgart-based Daimler’s strategy for its electrified vehicles’ footprint,” said Mr Grewe.

In addition, Mercedes-Benz has its positive outlook on all EV platforms after the government issued its promotional privileges in last March, projecting 20,000 HEV cars to be sold in 2018, compared with only 3,400 in 2017.

The company projects 9,500 PHEV cars will be sold this year, up from 7,800 cars, which were mainly in the luxury segment.

BEV cars are also expected to grow significantly from a limited volume of 50 in 2017 to 500 in 2018.

In a related development, Mercedes-Benz reported its robust sales volume in 2017 at 14,484 cars, up by 23% from a year before thanks to 18 new models launched last year.

For 2018, Mr Grewe expects sales to be in line with the healthy automotive market, projecting a 3-5% rise to 410,000 passenger cars.

“The government plans to invest in infrastructure projects and private investment is gradually recovering; these positive factors will boost the overall car market,” he said.

“The luxury segment is expected to sell a total of 25,000 cars in 2018.”

News Reporter

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