Thai automakers regear for the post-Covid race

BANGKOK – The Covid-19 pandemic has put the brakes on Thailand’s automotive industry, but there are healthy innovative signs the so-called “Detroit of Asia” will survive the crash as it downshifts into more new-generation electric vehicle (EV) production.

The kingdom’s automotive industry normally employs about 700,000 people and accounts for 7-8% of gross domestic product (GDP). Last year, Thailand manufactured 2.1 million vehicles – about half for the domestic market and half for export – ranking the nation as the 11th largest vehicle manufacturing base worldwide.

That production will understandably collapse in Covid-19 infected 2020. During the first seven months of this year, Thailand produced just 695,468 units, down 43.7% year-on-year. Exports during the same period amounted to 400,114 units, down 37.6%, according to Federation of Thai Industries figures. 

The full Covid impact on the sector, in such areas as unemployment and business closures, remains to be seen.