Tesla executives looked at industrial estates in Thailand – PM

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Thursday said he showed Tesla executives around industrial estates in the country last week for potential investment.

“I went out of my way to entertain them so they would fall in love with Thailand …. they are looking for 2,000 rai (320 hectares) of land,” Srettha said, adding he was confident that the electric vehicle (EV) maker would invest in Thailand.

Srettha, a political newcomer, became prime minister in August and held a meeting with Tesla chief Elon Musk a month later.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy is the largest car producer and exporter in the region, with Japanese manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corp, Isuzu Motors and Honda Motor dominating the Thai sector for decades.

Thailand aims to convert about a third of its annual production of 2.5 million vehicles into EVs by 2030 and is preparing incentives to encourage more investment and conversion into EV manufacturing.

EVs have steadily gained traction in Thailand, spurred by a government subsidy that currently stands at up to 150,000 baht per car. The country accounted for around half of all EV sales in Southeast Asia in the second quarter.

Tax cuts and subsidies rolled out by Thailand have already drawn a raft of Chinese carmakers, including BYD and Great Wall Motor, which have committed to investing $1.44 billion in new production facilities in the country.

Srettha also said Thailand would continue to promote the manufacturing of traditional combustible engine vehicles.

“We were known as Detroit of the East – Japan was the biggest investor, but they are behind in EV,” he said.

“EVs are not going to take over the world … so is it possible to move (Japanese autos) regional production to Thailand and I will give tax incentives.”

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat, Edited by Kanupriya Kapoor)