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Mercedes-Benz adds Thai production base for electric cars

By Barry Park, 15 Mar 2018 Industry

Mercedes Benz EQC concept 12

A new battery factory opens the door to Thai-built, Benz-badged plug-in hybrid and electric cars reaching out for export markets, including potentially Australia

THAILAND, the birthplace of most of the trade utes sold in Australia, will soon become the spawning ground of a new breed of vehicles – Mercedes-Benz’s electric, and electrified, cars.

The German luxury car maker has teamed up with its Thai partner, which already assembles CKD CLA-Class sedans and GLA-Class SUVs, to collectively spend €100 million ($A157 million) to expand its car making operations to build batteries, “ensuring availability of cutting-edge technology for electrified and ‘EQ Power’ Plug-In Hybrid vehicles produced in Thailand”.

The deal was made possible via the Thai government’s “promotional privileges”, a strategy that aims to reshape the kingdom as the region’s electric vehicle hub.

A Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman said it was "very early" to say if the Thai-built models would one day be destined for the Australian market. "Should there be EQ vehicles produced there in RHD, and of the model(s) we would want, then it is possible we would consider them," he said.

Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybridThe plant will be one of six globally spread across three continents, and will use what Mercedes-Benz says is a “highly standardized and scalable battery production concept” that will allow it to adjust production and roll out technology changes across the network of factories.

Mercedes-Benz is laying down plans so that by 2022, it will have electrified its entire showroom, offering customers “at least one electrified alternative in all segments from compact cars to large SUVs” including plug-in hybrid petrol and diesel models.

“The company is planning to offer more than 50 electrified vehicle variants,” it said. “Mercedes-Benz will be continuously supporting the development of plug-in hybrids and the introduction of 48-volt systems. The first EQ series model – the EQC – will go into production in 2019 in Bremen, Germany.”

Mercedes-Benz’s announcement comes a day after fellow German car maker Volkswagen Group said it had locked in €20 billion worth of battery technologies for its electric car push, which will also start next year.