BYD’s factory plan in Thailand shows how China’s EV industry is going global

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

BYD, backed by Warren Buffett, said it signed a contract with WHA Corp. Public Company Ltd., Thailand’s leading developer of industrial zones, to buy land to build electric passenger cars in the Southeast Asian country. Production is expected to start in 2024 with an annual capacity of around 150,000 vehicles for the Thai market and export, BYD said.

The site will be the first wholly-owned BYD facility to produce passenger cars outside of China. Although relatively unknown in the United States, where it manufactures buses, the industrial heavyweight, headquartered in Shenzhen, has a market capitalization that has sometimes exceeded that of GM and Ford combined this year. BYD declined to say how much it plans to invest in the Thai project.

On Monday, meanwhile, contemporary Chinese technology Amperex, or CATL, the world’s largest electric vehicle battery supplier, signed a real estate deal in Hungary with the city of Debrecen that marked the official launch of a factory there. down, Xinhua news agency reported.

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

“The greenfield project in Hungary will be a giant step in CATL’s global expansion,” CATL President Robin Zeng said in August. Zeng is one of China’s richest business leaders, with a fortune worth $37 billion on the Forbes list of real-time billionaires today.

CATL isn’t the only Chinese electric vehicle maker with an eye on Hungary. On July 29, Péter Szijjártó, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Hui Zhang, Vice President of NIO’s European Office, said that a factory for NIO battery exchange equipment will start operations in September. NIO, headquartered in Shanghai, also manufactures electric passenger vehicles.

Chinese electric vehicle companies are globally competitive partly due to an early focus on the domestic market and a desire to leapfrog older global incumbents that dominate internal combustion engine technology. According to a report by the International Energy Agency, more electric vehicles were sold in China in 2021 – 3.3 million – than worldwide in 2020. In the first quarter of 2022, sales in China grew more than doubled compared to the first quarter of 2021, he said. Overall, China has the largest automobile market and the second largest economy in the world.

The success of Chinese EV startups such as NIO and Xpeng has turned their founders into billionaires. NIO chairman William Li is worth $3 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires list today, and Xpeng’s He Xiaopeng holds an estimated fortune of $2.8 billion.

The United States is not excluded from new investments by Chinese suppliers to the electric vehicle industry. SEMCORP Advanced Materials Group, also known as Yunnan Energy New Material, announced in May that it would build an EV battery separator film manufacturing plant in Sidney, Ohio, creating nearly 1,200 jobs with $73 million. in annual payroll and $916 million in capital investment.

“The Sidney facility is one of the largest investments in our company’s history, as we know the United States is heavily committed to building the supply chains for electric vehicles and energy storage. energy here at home,” according to a statement from CEO Paul Lee, a US citizen. with an estimated fortune of $6.5 billion on the Forbes list of real-time billionaires today.

CATL would also be looking for a North American site. Reuters said Aug. 3 that it plans to supply lithium-ion batteries to Ford and begin battery production in North America by 2026, citing “a person familiar with the matter.”

Recently announced investments in vehicles and components follow lithium mining acquisitions by Chinese companies in Argentina (CATL, Zijin Mining), Australia (Tianqi Lithium) and Canada (Ganfeng Lithium), according to a report published today. year by S&P.

Further subtle evidence this week of China’s industry leaders’ continued appetite for growth: Ganfeng said it plans to change its name from lowly “Ganfeng Lithium Co.” to “Ganfeng Lithium Group Co.”

“The reasons for the company name change are to accurately reflect the diversification of the upstream, midstream and downstream lithium ecological business of the company, to clearly enhance the recognition of the company’s core business, and to ‘clearly affirm the company’s strategic positioning of being a global leader in the green lithium business,’ he said.

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