It appears that the production of BMW plug-in hybrid models in the region is set to increase, with BMW Group Manufacturing Thailand set to invest 1 billion baht (RM126.2 million) in the production of petrol-electric vehicles at its plant in the Amata City Industrial Estate, Rayong.

According to the Bangkok Post, the investment has been earmarked for the improvement of line operations there, in order to facilitate the increase of plug-in hybrid production. Of that amount, 488 million baht (RM61.6 million) has already been spent to kick off production of these vehicles last November. The company has spent 3.7 billion baht (RM467 million) on the plant from 2000 to 2015.

The rest of the investment will be used to double the production capacity in Thailand this year; the company currently builds 20,000 BMW and MINI cars and 10,000 BMW Motorrad motorcycles a year. President of BMW Group Thailand Stafan Teuchert said that the two-year investment is meant to prepare for future demand both domestically and abroad, with Munich seeking any opportunity to export vehicles from Thailand.

The company has exported a limited amount of cars to Malaysia since 2006 and around 1,000 motorcycles to Malaysia and China since 2015, but began shipping large amounts of completely built up (CBU) X3s and X5s to China last year. It aims to export 10,000 units of those models in 2017 – mostly to China – and is also eyeing other markets in ASEAN for opportunities.

Locally, BMW plans to bring in more advanced technology to build plug-in hybrid batteries in Rayong by mid-2018, further reducing retail prices in Thailand. The company currently imports the batteries from Europe.

Existing Thai-built BMW plug-in hybrids include the 330e Luxury and X5 xDrive40e M Sport, priced at 2.59 million baht (RM326,900) and 4.69 million baht (RM592,000) respectively – around 490,000 baht (RM61,800) and 690,000 baht (RM87,100) lower than if they were imported. Teuchert said that the company plans to produce the 740e this year and the 530e in 2018.

In order to support the increase in the number of plug-in hybrid vehicles in Thailand, BMW plans to increase the number of charging stations in Bangkok to 12 this year, up from the current five. It expects sales of electric cars, mainly PHEVs, to rise from 5% of total car sales to 15% in 2017.

Meanwhile, BMW currently assembles the 330e Sport, 330e M Sport and X5 xDrive40e in Malaysia, priced at RM248,800, RM258,800 and RM388,800 respectively, on-the-road without insurance. It also expects to export the 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series from Malaysia to Vietnam and the Philippines from next year.