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BYD’s Thailand Factory Plan Underscores How China’s EV Industry Is Going Global

Thursday’s announcement of manufacturing plans in Thailand by BYD, the world’s largest maker of electric vehicles, underscores how China’s suppliers are seizing upon growing demand for energy-saving vehicles to expand globally.

Warren Buffett-backed BYD said it signed a contract with WHA Corp. Public Company Ltd., Thailand’s leading developer of industrial estates, to purchase land to build electric passenger cars in the Southeast Asia country. Production is expected to begin in 2024 with annual capacity of about 150,000 vehicles for the Thai market and export, BYD said.

The site will be BYD’s first wholly owned facility to produce passenger cars outside of China. Though relatively little-known in the U.S., where it makes buses, the Shenzhen-headquartered industry heavyweight boasts a stock-market capitalization at times this year exceeded GM’s and Ford’s combined. BYD declined to say how much it expected to invest in the Thai project.

On Monday, meanwhile, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology, or CATL, the world’s largest supplier of EV batteries, signed a real estate agreement in Hungary with the city of Debrecen that marked the official launch of a plant there, Xinhua News Agency reported.

CATL said last month it planned to invest 7.34 billion euros to build the facility, its second in Europe following a plant in Germany. Debrecen is close to CATL customers Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen, the company said last month.

“The greenfield project in Hungary will be a giant leap in CATL’s global expansion,” according to a statement by CATL Chairman Robin Zeng in August. Zeng is one of China’s richest business leaders, with a fortune worth $37 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List today.

CATL isn’t the only China EV maker eyeing Hungary. On July 29, Péter Szijjártó, the Minister of Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Hui Zhang, vice president of NIO Europe Office, said a NIO battery-swapping equipment plant will begin operations there in September. NIO, headquartered in Shanghai, also makes electric passenger vehicles.

China’s EV companies are competitive globally due in part to an early domestic focus on the market and a wish to leapfrog over older global incumbents that dominate mainstream internal combustion engine technology. More EVs were sold in China in 2021 — 3.3 million — than in the entire world in 2020, according to a report by the International Energy Agency. In the first quarter of 2022, sales in China more than doubled compared with the first quarter of 2021, it said. Overall, China boasts the world’s largest automobile market and second-largest economy.


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