GAC Aion, the electric vehicle (EV) unit of Chinese state-owned automaker Guangzhou Automobile (GAC), said it would begin assembly of electric vehicles (EVs) in Thailand by June 2024.

The company last month began shipping Aion Y Plus EVs to Thailand to establish a local presence before launching production.

At the official launch of the battery SUV in Thailand, managing director Gu Huinan said the company planned to set up an assembly plant in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) which covers the industrial areas of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao. The plant site was expected to be decided this month with construction to start soon after. Plans have already been drafted and sent to the government.

GAC Group recently established a local subsidiary for Thai production called Aion Automobile Manufacturing (Thailand) and said it planned to invest THB6bn (US$169m) over the next three to five years to build EV and battery factories to supply south east Asia.

The Thai plant would be GAC Group’s first overseas factory with the company joining a growing list of Chinese brands setting up electric and hybrid vehicle assembly in the country, including Great Wall Motors, Hozon, BYD and SAIC Motor, to challenge the dominance of Japanese automakers in south east Asia.

Gu said his company chose Thailand because the country was already “a major vehicle manufacturing hub in the Asean region; it has a fast-growing EV market with high purchasing power among buyers; and because of the government’s policies to promote its EV industry”.

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When it shipped its first batch of 100 Aion Y Plus models to Thailand last month, GAC Aion said: “This marks a new milestone for GAC Aion as we export our vehicles to an overseas market for the first time. We are taking a first step in internationalising Aion’s business.”

The company’s local distribution company, Aion Automobile Sales (Thailand), said it had already established a network of 30 sales outlets in the country, with 25 in the Bangkok area, and planned to have 50 by the end of the year.

GAC Aion aimed to sell 3,000 Aion Y Plus models in Thailand by the end of 2023, priced at between THB1.06m and THB1.2m.

GAC Aion’s EV sales in China doubled to 209,000 units in the first half of 2023 with the company targeting at least 500,000 units in the full year.