Tesla has finally made its debut in the Thai market. The American EV maker launched two of its most iconic electric cars, the Model 3 and the Model Y in Thailand, at an event in Bangkok. Tesla will be taking on some of the country’s most prominent Japanese and Chinese manufacturers.

The Thai government has been making a significant push toward EVs in the country. It encourages EV manufacturers to sell their products in the country and set up production facilities. Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and Asia’s fourth-largest auto assembly and export hub for companies like Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd. It produces about 1.5 million to 2 million vehicles annually, of which about half are exported.

While the Thai market has been a traditional stronghold of Japanese automakers, mainly Honda, when it comes to EVs, the Chinese manufacturers will pose a challenge for Tesla. While most Chinese manufacturers offer vehicles that start at around 800,000 baht, Tesla’s cheapest option begins at 1.7 million baht and goes up to 2.5 million baht. Anyone looking to buy a Tesla in Thailand will be paying over twice the money it would cost a person to go for any other option.

The U.S. automaker plans to sell its EVs in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy via online channels, with deliveries set to start early next year.

Fuel-based vehicles, especially made by Japanese brands, still dominate the roads in Thailand. However, EV uptake has gradually gained momentum, with about 7,000 new battery EVs registered in the first ten months of 2022, according to the Thailand Automotive Institute. This figure has grown to over 5,000 vehicles from the previous year.

Customers who showed up to Tesla’s launch in a luxury mall in central Bangkok said they were interested in the new cars offered.

“I’m excited. The price differences aren’t significant (from other EV brands),” said office worker Thitipun Paisirikul, 36, adding he expected the car’s resale value would be high.

The Thai government wants at least 30% of vehicles produced in the country to be electric by 2030.

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