June 18, 2024

BANGKOK (Reuters) -Thailand’s new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Thursday he met with Tesla chief Elon Musk in New York, where they discussed the electric vehicle industry.

Thailand, Asia’s fourth-largest automobile assembly hub, has been offering incentives to EV and battery makers, and tax cuts to local EV buyers, to remain a regional auto centre.

Srettha, who is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, said he spoke with Musk about EV manufacturer Tesla and his rocket and satellite company SpaceX, including its internet venture Starlink.

“We look forward to further discussions,” Srettha posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Automakers with plants in Thailand include Toyota and Honda. The country produces about 1.5 million to 2 million vehicles annually, of which about half are exported.

EVs have been steadily gaining traction in Southeast Asia, a market dominated by Japanese carmakers.

EVs accounted for 6.4% of all passenger car sales in the region in the second quarter, up from 3.8% in the first quarter, Counterpoint Research data show.

Around half of all regional EV sales are from Thailand, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia, with Chinese carmakers like BYD leading by a wide margin.

Tesla, also popular in Thailand, launched models in the growing market last year.

Southeast Asia accounted for less than 1% of Tesla’s global sales, according to Counterpoint.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Jane Merriman and Richard Chang)

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