MUMBAI: Asia’s electric vehicle market is set to take off in 2023, as automakers from BYD to Tata and Tesla offer more affordable options to capture demand among consumers in emerging countries.
Indian carmaker Tata Motors will start delivering the Tiago electric hatchback, which local media have dubbed the “most awaited” car in India, in January. Tata said it received over 10,000 bookings within a day of opening up to reservations in October. It had topped the 20,000 mark by late November, surpassing India’s entire electric passenger vehicle sales for 2021.
The Tiago’s popularity stems largely from its 849,000 rupee (US$10,300) starting price – a significant discount from over 1 million rupees for Tata’s conventional EVs.
Tata made inroads into budget cars with the gasoline-powered compact Nano, though the model flopped over quality concerns. It is renewing a push into lower price points amid growing pressure to expand its footprint in the rapidly expanding electric market.
In China, BYD has been tapping demand for midrange models through the Dynasty and Ocean series and is on track to sell over 2 million new vehicles in 2022. The automaker is now turning its sights on the growing Southeast Asian market and has already become a popular player in Singapore.
Battery electric vehicles are taking off “faster than expected” in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Indonesia, according to UK-based LMC Automotive.
“There is plenty of room for new entrants to penetrate the Asean car markets, where Japanese car brands have long dominated,” the automotive researcher said.
SAIC-GM-Wuling, a member of China’s SAIC Motor Group, launched the Air EV budget compact in Indonesia in August. The model is priced around 30% of Hyundai Motor’s Ioniq EVs, and is cheaper than the gasoline-powered minivans that make up much of Japanese automakers’ sales there.
The Air EV now holds over 70% of electric sales in Indonesia. Around 300 were used as official vehicles for the Group of 20 summit in Bali last month.
Chinese state-owned carmaker Chery Automobile is also making inroads in Indonesia. It announced plans to invest around US$1 billion in the country to build a factory there with an annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles. It will start selling EVs in Indonesia as early as 2023, local media report.
In Vietnam, local conglomerate Vingroup pledged to stop gasoline-powered vehicles this year. It began exporting EVs priced at around half that of Teslas to the US at the end of November. It has also cut prices at home by leasing EV batteries, which make up a large portion of the vehicles’ costs, and by taking advantage of government incentives.
Tesla is accelerating its own push into Asia in response to the rise of local players. The company decided to officially enter Thailand, its second Southeast Asian market after Singapore. Tesla will start deliveries in the first quarter of next year and begin establishing a network of auto centres and charging stations. The Model 3 will start at 1.75 million baht (US$50,400), which is about a third less than a comparable imported vehicle.
Meanwhile, Hyundai’s Ioniq series has found fans in South Korea, Europe and other markets. It is targeting younger customers in Indonesia, where it is competing with Chinese rivals on price.
Yulon Motor could emerge as a player in 2023 as well. The Taiwanese automaker is slated to begin delivery of the Luxgen n7, its first retail electric car, in the second half of the year.
Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn, operates a joint venture with Yulon. It also separately produces EVs in the US, and is partnering with Thai state oil company PTT to build a factory in Thailand.
Japanese automakers are also making efforts to maintain a grip on Asian markets. Toyota Motor recently launched the bZ4X in Thailand, which is its first electric vehicle outside the Lexus brand. It plans to take advantage of Thai EV subsidies to expand its footprint in the country.