Deadline looms for new eco-car phase

With next Monday's deadline looming for applicants to submit eco-car investment plans to the Board of Investment (BoI) for the second phase, almost all car makers have confirmed they are applying.

Ford Motor Co of the US said it submitted its application last Friday, while General Motors on Tuesday announced it would also apply.

“GM’s intent to develop a new Chevrolet car for production in Thailand is well aligned with the objective of the eco-car programme,” said Marcos Purty, the new managing director of GM Thailand.

“By submitting this application, GM reaffirms its commitment to investing in Thailand and making Rayong a strategic hub for global exports.

"Additionally, this investment will bolster our long-term commitment to the excellent regional supplier network.”

The programme calls for car makers in Thailand to build an all-new vehicle that is fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly, safe and low cost for sale throughout the region by the end of this decade.

Eco-cars are expected to use many locally produced components including power trains.

Yukontorn Wisadkosin, the managing director of Ford Thailand, said the firm has long studied domestic eco-car demand including the segment below 1,500cc.

"The eco-car market still has potential for Ford,” she said.

Japanese eco-car maker Honda Automobile (Thailand) has expressed its intention to participate in the second phase of the programme, while Mitsubishi Motors (Thailand) said it is negotiating with the BoI.

"All eco-car makers are expected to submit their applications by the BoI’s March 31 deadline, but they can change their mind later," said Pitak Pruittisarikorn, an executive vice-president of Honda's local subsidiary.

Manufacturers applying for the new phase are allowed to pull out of the programme at a later date at no penalty except for licence revocation.

The first phase, launched in 2007, attracted investment of 28.8 billion baht from car makers Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Suzuki.

With the country now facing a political stalemate, the government is pinning its hopes on the second phase of the eco-car scheme to strengthen the automobile industry and the overall economy.

To be eligible for investment privileges, first-phase participants can apply to expand production or reinvest in the second phase with a minimum of 5 billion baht in capital excluding land costs.

Newcomers must invest a minimum of 6.5 billion baht.

These new participants are also required to produce a minimum of 100,000 vehicles annually starting in the fourth year.

That is one year earlier than under the first phase.

The government will waive corporate taxes and import duties on machinery for the first eight years of operation.

Participants may also enjoy excise tax as low as 14%, while E85-compatible eco-cars will be taxed at 12%.

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