Language :
Opportunities in Thailand's Automotive Industry


Thailand’s economy has shown record impressive growth over the past decade. The combination of a sound economic foundation and renewed growth makes this vibrant Southeast Asian economy fertile ground for future automotive investments.

The automotive industry is a vital sector for the country’s economy as it contributes greatly to exports and trade inflows. It is Thailand’s second-largest export industry, after computer parts and components. Thanks to continuous government-led support, automotive has evolved into an industry with vibrant foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) competition and an extensive network of supporting industries. Thailand’s long experience with automotive manufacturing has equipped the country with a comparatively low-cost yet experienced labor force for the sector.

Source: Thai Autoparts Manufacturers Association

  Thailand has approximately 690 Tier 1 auto parts suppliers and 1,700 Tier 2 and 3 suppliers. More than half of the Tier 1 suppliers are foreign-majority companies. Of the top 100 auto parts manufacturers in the world, 50% have factories in Thailand. The country’s manufacturing base is strong enough to supply all of the necessary parts, from engine parts to interior and body parts.

   Major multinational automotive industry leaders in Thailand include Toyota Motors, Isuzu, Honda Automobile, Nissan Motors, General Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Suzuki Motors, BMW Manufacturing, Tata Motors, Ford Motor and Mazda.

Big Industry Drivers

  In early 2012, many Japanese automotive enterprises announced their intentions to continue investments in Thailand. After the devastating flood in Thailand at the end of 2011, up to 80% of Japanese investors still have full confidence in investment in Thailand, based on the growth prospects of the country’s economy.


Toyota continues to invest US$273 million in 2012. Most of the budget will be spent on a new plant in Chachoengsao’s Gateway City Industrial Estate and an existing plant in Samutprakarn, to produce fuel-efficient cars at an annual capacity of 100,000 units. The additional facilities are expected to start production in July 2013.

Suzuki Motor has invested US$250 million to build its first factory for the production of fuel-efficient cars.

Isuzu will increase its investment by US$217 million to build a new plant in the Gateway City Industrial Estate, with annual capacity estimated at 200,000 units. The plant is expected to open in October 2012.

Thai Summit, one of the largest auto parts makers, has allocated US$167 million to expand its factories in Rayong and Chonburi provinces. 

Ford Motor has opened a US$450 million plant in Thailand, with capacity of 150,000 units per year, expanding its export capability to meet rising demand in neighboring countries.

Jatco, a Japanese maker of automobile transmissions, invested US$255 million in a new plant to produce continuously variable transmission (CVT) units in Thailand. It is the first company to produce CVTs in the country. The plant is planned to open in mid-2013.


  According to the Ministry of Commerce, Thailand’s automotive industry export value in 2011 was US$17 billion, the second-largest export value after computer parts and components. Thailand's exports last year benefited from a free-trade agreement (FTA) that went into effect with major economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  In the same period, auto parts imports totaled nearly US$6.5 billion.


  The major factors that attract investors to enter the Thai automotive market include the large pool of skilled labor at affordable cost and the abundant supply of rubber. The country is also moving toward production of more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electrical and fuel cell-powered models, along with the introduction of special reduced excise tax rates for those vehicles.

Source: International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers

  In 2011, 1.46 million vehicles were manufactured in Thailand, ranking Thailand 14th among the world’s automotive manufacturing countries. According to the Thai Automotive Institute, production is predicted to reach 2.2 million units in 2012, 50% produced for domestic sale and 50% for export.


“Thailand is expected to produce 2 million cars in 2012 and is expected to achieve 3 million units by 2015 – placing it among the world’s top 10 auto producing countries. The economic opening of Myanmar could propel Thailand’s ascension into the world’s top 10 auto producing countries even faster by increasing regional demand as it looks to upgrade its older cars.”

 -Dr. Patima Jeerapaet, President of Thailand Automotive Institute-


Thailand's Motor Vehicle Production by Unit, 2005-2011









Passenger Cars









Commercial Cars
(excluding one-ton pickups)









One-ton Pickups


















Y-O-Y Growth (%)









Source: Thai Automotive Institute

Source: Thai Automotive Institute

The top 10 destinations of Thai automotive exports accounted for 63% of exports worldwide.  Australia and Indonesia are the major destinations of Thai-manufactured automotive products.

Top 10 Vehicle Export Destinations in 2011


Value (US$)











Saudi Arabia





















Total top 10 countries



Source: Thai Automotive Institute



  Demand for Thailand-made automotive parts is growing. There are approximately 1,800 automotive suppliers already in the country, of which 709 are OEMs. All of the major Japanese automakers have opened manufacturing sites in Thailand. Many of their parts manufacturers, such as France’s Valeo, Germany’s Bosch, US-based TRW, Britain’s GKN and Japan’s Denso, Mitsuba and Mitsubishi, have followed suit to serve their customers.


  According to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, the quality of automotive parts in Thailand is the highest among ASEAN countries. Local manufacturers supply 80-90% of the parts used in pickup truck assembly, and as much as 70% of those for passenger cars. Moreover, the country produces nearly 100% of the parts used in the assembly of motorcycles.



Source: Thai Automotive Institute

  The majority of Thailand’s automotive parts exports are OEM parts (US$4,757 million), comprising 75% of all exports.  This is followed by engines (US$889 million) at 15% and spare parts (US$551 million) at 9%.


53 of the Top 100 Global OEM Parts Suppliers in Thailand

Robert Bosch



Aisin Seiki

Magna International


Johnson Controls

ZF Friedrichshafen

TRW Automotive

Delphi Automotive



Sumitomo Electric


Toyota Boshoku



Hitachi Automotive






Toyoda Gosei






Mitsubishi Electric


NHK Spring

Koito Manufacturing

TS Tech






Tokai Rika

GKN Driveline



TI Automotive


TE Connectivity


Asahi Glass

American Axle

Stanley Electric

Akebono Brake

Philips Electronics

PPG Industries



Source: Automotive News as of June 13, 2011



  Electronics have ascended to an important position within the automotive industry. The growth of electronics continues across automobile systems with the increasing focus on performance, safety, comfort, efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles. The global demand for automotive electronic systems is estimated at US$187.1 billion in 2012. The market forecast is US$287.6 billion in 2018.


  Innovation in electronic systems is driving today’s automotive parts industry. The emerging Asian market will play a central role in this growth, both as a producer and a consumer. In addition to being the site of much automotive production, Asia is one of the regions with the strongest demand for automotive electronics.


  Most of the automotive electronics used in cars produced in Thailand are imported from Malaysia and Japan. The market value of automotive electronics in Thailand was approximately US$6.3 billion in 2011. Given the market size, the current limited number of automotive electronics producers in Thailand presents an excellent investment opportunity. Local suppliers could capitalize on the sizeable local demand. Such opportunities and the considerable investment in R&D make Thailand an attractive place for investors.


  There are many other reasons why the Thai automotive industry is an attractive base for investors in automotive parts production. Of the more than 3,000 parts and components in a typical vehicle, a sizeable portion is still sought from overseas. Opportunities exist for foreign suppliers to manufacture electronic fuel injection systems, substrates for catalytic converters, CVTs, electronic stability controls and regenerative braking systems, among numerous other products. More R&D, design and testing centers are also needed, even though major players Yamaha, Bridgestone, Maxxis and Michelin are already operating such facilities in Thailand.

Hi-Tech Vehicle Parts and Components

Projects in high-tech vehicle parts and components manufacturing are considered priority activities by the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI), which means they are exempt from machinery import duties and from corporate income tax for eight years, regardless of location. 


  Six automotive activities (automatic transmissions, CVTs, traction motors for automobiles such as hybrid cars and fuel cells, electronic stability controls or ESCs, regenerative braking systems, and rubber tires for vehicles), are eligible for the BOI’s special incentives promoting sustainable development, if the investor submits an application by December 2012.


  The incentives for these activities include a five-year 50% reduction of corporate income tax on net profit following the expiration of the corporate income tax holiday, a 10-year double deduction of transportation, electricity and water supply costs, deduction from net profit of 25% of investment in infrastructure installation and construction costs, in addition to normal capital depreciation. Projects can be located anywhere except Bangkok.


   NGV Vehicles

The Ministry of Energy supports fuel-efficient transportation through a natural gas vehicle (NGV) initiative. This initiative includes the introduction of over 10,000 natural gas-powered taxicabs, natural gas subsidization through PTT Public Company Ltd., a reduced import duty on NGV tanks from 17% to 10% in 2012, and a reduced import duty on NGV control system parts and components from 35% to 10%.

Eco-Car Parts

Eco-car parts continue to receive incentives to promote the growth of the eco-car market locally and abroad. The incentives will be applied exclusively to materials that cannot be produced locally. Duty reduction will be granted up to 90% for two years with annual review. The measure is intended to help eco-car manufacturers by lowering their production costs and reducing their burden in sourcing parts that are not available locally or produced in Thailand. This measure also encourages more investment in eco-car parts production, providing the country with economies of scale and a greater competitive advantage in the global eco-car production business. Currently, there are five BOI-promoted companies for eco-car manufacturing: Nissan March, Honda Brio, Suzuki Swift and Mitsubishi Mirage, and Toyota which will launch its model in 2013.

   Passenger Cars

  Although Thailand has a strong focus on pickup trucks, passenger cars receive similar favorable treatment in manufacturing promotion. The requirement for the promotion of passenger car manufacturing includes a minimum capacity for the approved models of 100,000 units per year within five years and a minimum investment, exclusive of land cost and working capital, of US$500 million (THB 15 billion). Projects that meet these criteria are eligible for a five-year corporate income tax holiday and exemption from import duties on machinery, regardless of location.


The Ministry of Finance is offering three-year exemption on import duties of foreign auto parts used to make vehicles E85-ready. The ministry has also reduced the excise tax on cars using E85 to 22%, 27% and 32%, depending on engine size.

   Big-Bike, 4-Stroke Engine Motorcycles (Over 500cc)

  Under the new scheme, a minimum annual capacity will not be required, whereas previously it was set at 50,000 units/year. In addition, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership, compared to a minimum of 60% Thai ownership previously required. Regardless of the plant location, big-bike motorcycle manufacturing activities will be eligible for exemption from import duties on machinery. For projects that include engine manufacturing starting from machining key parts, such as cylinder heads and crankcases, the corporate income tax holiday may be extended for three to eight years, except for those located outside an industrial estate in BOI Zone 1.


Vehicle Tires

Companies manufacturing vehicle tires are exempt from machinery import duties and corporate income tax for eight years, regardless of zone. 

Automotive Excise Taxes

Passenger Car

<2,000cc <220HP

2,000-2,500cc <220HP

2,500-3,000cc <220HP

>3,000cc or >220HP


<2,000cc <220HP

2,000-2,500cc <220HP

2,500-3,000cc <220HP

>3,000cc or >220HP

Electronic Powered


Fuel Cell Powered


Eco-Car, Gasoline

17% if ≤ 1,300cc for Gasoline Engines or
     1,400cc for Diesel Engines

Natural Gas


Hybrid Vehicle



Single Car Pickup



Passenger Pickup



Double Cap Pickup



Source: Excise Department, Ministry of Finance


Thailand has been dubbed the “Detroit of Asia” because of the consistent government policies that promote automobile assembly and automotive manufacturing capacity.

Nearly every Japanese carmaker has manufacturing facilities in Thailand, as do major U.S. automotive firms such as Ford Motors and General Motors, and the German companies Daimler (maker of the Mercedes-Benz) and Bayerische Motoren Werke (better known as BMW).


Promising Investment Site

  As the country’s economic performance has been strong, many of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers have production facilities based in Thailand. The growth prospects of domestic demand for locally manufactured auto parts are high. The country’s strategic location as a gateway to Asia makes for easy access to regional markets. All of these factors contribute to the evident opportunities for foreign investors to enter the market.


  In addition to the policies on tax reduction, there are non-tax incentives that the Thai government offers to manufacturers of vehicles and vehicle parts, and for automotive R&D and testing. These include land ownership rights for foreign investors, permission to bring in foreign experts and technicians, and work permit and visa facilitation for foreign expat employees. The government also does not impose export requirements, local content requirements, location requirements or foreign equity restrictions on manufacturers.


Competitive Skilled-Labor Supply

  Apart from 100,000 workers in the brand automotive factories, Thailand has a robust 1,700 factories and more than 420,000 skilled workers in the automotive supporting industry. Thai laborers have the advantage of high skill levels and quality compared with most countries in the region.


“We have trained them to produce the cars and now the locally made cars are being exported around the world. The fact that customers in so many countries are continually buying these cars shows that Thai work quality is excellent.

 Toyota understands that the potential of the Thai people is very high. In the future looking beyond production to R&D, there may be the chance that our Thai employees will design the cars as well as produce them.”

 -Mr. Kyoichi Tanada, President of Toyota Motor Thailand

and President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok-


Auto Parts Clusters

  To foster greater productivity and efficiency in the industry, the government has encouraged the development of auto parts clusters. Proximity between firms and their input suppliers allows for not only enhanced communication but also improved flow of goods and lower costs.


Excellent Infrastructure

  There are many industrial estates that focus on the automotive industry, thus providing state-of-the-art facilities for auto parts manufacturers. Thailand's extensive road network, well-developed seaports including Laem Chabang Deep Sea Port — one of the leading deep-sea ports in the world — and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport make automotive parts exports remarkably efficient, saving cost and time for all market players.


Thailand’s Trade Liberalization

  Thailand has been a WTO member since January 1995, and has made steady progress in recent years toward trade liberalization, as well as restructuring its public sector and strengthening its financial system. The country’s many FTAs include terms advantageous to local auto parts producers. In particular, the agreement with ASEAN opens doors to a market of 680 million people across the association’s member countries. Tariffs on auto parts exported to ASEAN nations have been eliminated entirely since 2010.


  Benefits brought about by the prime market network of Thailand will be further heightened with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. The AEC will serve as a massive single market that is fully integrated into the global economy with equitable economic development. The economic bloc will open new doors to manufacturers by transforming ASEAN into a region with the free movement of goods, capital, services, investment and workforce.


Excellent Government Support

The Thai government’s vision is for Thailand to be the automotive production hub of Asia, and has thus emphasized a clear, consistent and continuous international car policy for multinational investors as the central theme on automotive development. It is also the BOI’s policy to promote liberalization and transparency, providing equal treatment to all market players. The government has created the most attractive business environment in the region for the automotive industry, and has prepared essential resources for every type of automotive business, including development of basic infrastructure, a quality labor force, and strong upstream and supporting industries. 



  The BOI offers a range of fiscal and non-tax incentives for investments based on location. Tax incentives include exemption or reduction of import duties on machinery and raw materials, and corporate income tax exemptions and reductions. Non-tax incentives include permission to bring in foreign workers, own land and take or remit foreign currency abroad. Additionally, foreign businesses are entitled to 100% foreign ownership.


  As indicated in the section above on opportunities, the BOI has created several packages that target different aspects of automobile manufacturing. In addition, the BOI has classified 11 categories of vehicle parts (including tires), as well as LNG or CNG containers, engines, parts and equipment for NGVs, and machines or equipment for NGV service stations, as priority activities. As such, projects in these activities are granted exemption of import duties on machinery for all zones, eight-year corporate income tax exemption for all zones (subject to the corporate income tax exemption cap), and all relevant location-based incentives.


  Of these 11 categories, six automotive activities (automatic transmissions, CVTs, traction motors for automobiles such as hybrid cars and fuel cells, electronic stability controls or ESCs, regenerative braking systems, and rubber tires for vehicles) are eligible for the BOI’s special incentives promoting sustainable development, if the investor submits an application by December 2012 .


  The incentives for these activities include a five-year 50% reduction of corporate income tax on net profit following the expiration of the corporate income tax holiday, a 10-year double deduction of transportation, electricity and water supply costs, deduction from net profit of 25% of investment in infrastructure installation and construction costs, in addition to normal capital depreciation. Projects can be located anywhere except Bangkok.



Thailand Board of Investment:

Thailand Automotive Institute:

Thai Automotive Industry Association:

Thai Autoparts Manufacturers Association:

ASEAN Supporting Industry Database:


Updated September 2012