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Mitsubishi to make plug-in hybrids in Thailand

Japan automaker plans 2021 start as government offers tax incentive

Mitsubishi Motors started selling plug-in hybrid Outlanders in Indonesia in July.

BANGKOK -- Mitsubishi Motors will produce plug-in hybrids in Thailand starting in early 2021, the automaker's first foray into producing the environmentally friendly vehicles outside Japan.

Chairman Osamu Masuko announced the plan Wednesday at a news conference here. Mitsubishi will invest about 10 billion yen ($92 million) to set up production equipment at a plant in Laem Chabang, in the eastern province of Chonburi. The hub will produce the Japanese automaker's Outlander plug-in hybrid.

Electric vehicles are expected to gain ground in Southeast Asia. Mitsubishi will test the market by first rolling out plug-in hybrids since they are not restrained by sparse charging infrastructure or battery capacity, which limits travel distances for full-electric vehicles.

Key parts such as batteries will be sourced from Japan for local assembly. Mitsubishi targets an annual output of 3,000 units, which initially will be sold in Thailand.

The automaker launched its first plug-in hybrid in 2013. Last year, it produced about 54,000 at facilities in central Japan's Aichi Prefecture, with about 90% exported to Europe and beyond. In July, Mitsubishi began selling imported Outlander plug-in hybrids in Indonesia.

Thailand has readied tax incentives to encourage domestic production of plug-in hybrids and electric cars. The government asked automakers to submit production proposals by the end of 2018. Japan's Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and Mazda Motor are among those considering manufacturing these vehicles in the country.

Mitsubishi's Laem Chabang plant boasts an annual capacity of over 420,000 units, among the automaker's largest output hubs.

The automaker has now exported a total of 4 million vehicles from Thailand -- an achievement marked by Masuko's visit this week. On top of the plug-in hybrid facilities, the company plans to invest 25 billion yen over the next several years to upgrade coating facilities and automate its plants.

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