Southeast Asian country has a significant rare earths sector.
Japanese carmaker Toyota will join forces with the government of Thailand to develop the country’s domestic electric vehicle industry. According to the news agency Reuters, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced the partnership after a meeting with Toyota executives and follows the carmaker’s announcement to trial a new EV pickup truck in the southeast Asian country to counter Chinese rivals such as BYD. Reuters added that Thailand is the world’s tenth-largest auto hub and has mostly been dominated by Japanese carmakers. However, the recent electromobility push from the People’s Republic has shifted the dynamic in Beijing’s favor. Chinese automakers now account for roughly three out of every four sold EVs in the entire Southeast Asian EV market, of which Thailand is the largest.
Southeast Asia is not the only market that is shifting towards Chinese-made EVs. European policymakers have also recognized a transitioning market and blamed subsidies from the Chinese government for EVs for unfair competition. The European Union has since launched an investigation into the matter.
Besides being an important sales market, Thailand is also a producer of critical minerals used within EVs, such as rare earths in the motor and manganese in the battery. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Thailand is the world’s fifth-largest producer of rare earths (PDF) and a minor producer of manganese (PDF). These natural resources could make the country also attractive for other foreign investors, considering that carmakers such as Stellantis or Hyundai are looking to diversify supply chains of critical minerals.