Chinese carmaker SAIC Motor this month applied for a licence to produce electric vehicles in Thailand, according to local reports.

The company's local joint venture, SAIC Motor-CP, plans to produce both electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles at its assembly plant in Chon Buri province, just east of Bangkok.

It already produces conventional internal combustion cars under the MG brand at its 100,000 units per year factory with output approaching just 24,000 units last year.

According to MG Sales Thailand's vice-president Pongsak Lertruedeewattanavong, SAIC Motor-CP has already been granted a licence by the country's board of investment to produce plug-in hybrid vehicles as part of a THB1.36bn (US$43m) investment programme. 

The company now also wants to produce battery electric vehicles which it intends to sell locally and export to other ASEAN markets.

It hopes to double output to around 50,000 units a year with the additional models.

Local reports noted SAIC Motor had chosen to assemble electric vehicles locally in Thailand even though it is able import these tariff-free under the ASEAN-China free trade agreement.

SAIC Motor-CP plans to begin selling its MG ZS EV in Thailand in June. This initially be imported built-up (CBU) from China and priced locally at around THB1.5m.

The company said it also plans to install charging stations at 107 showrooms and services centres nationwide to help encourage sales.