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Business

Electric car startup seeks to plug into Southeast Asia and Europe

Japan's FOMM plans to produce 10,000 compact vehicles a year in Thailand

This FOMM concept car is similar to what the company plans to roll out in Southeast Asia and Europe.

TOKYO -- Japanese electric-vehicle startup FOMM is racing to produce and sell a compact electric car in Thailand before rolling it out elsewhere in Southeast Asia and in Europe.

FOMM plans to start production in Thailand at the end of 2018 and sell the vehicle in partnership with a local power distribution company. It aims to begin exporting it to other Southeast Asian countries and Europe in 2020 or later.

The company was established in 2013 and is based in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. It hopes its four-seat compact electric car will appeal to households in urban areas that want to buy a smaller and more nimble second vehicle.

FOMM is set to unveil the name of the car at this year's Bangkok International Motor Show, which starts on Wednesday.

The company has adopted "in-wheel motor" technology, which places motors inside each wheel. This cuts the need for other parts and makes the cars easier to assemble.

FOMM is planning for about three-quarters of the car's parts to be procured in Thailand. Through its subsidiary, the company has signed an agreement with Pea Encom, a subsidiary of Thailand's Provincial Electricity Authority, to cooperate in the sale of the cars. Pea Encom will act as a sales agent and sell the vehicles on the Thai market.

The as-yet-unreleased car can travel 160km on a single charge. It can be charged through an ordinary home electrical outlet and, because of its size, can travel on relatively narrow back roads, potentially avoiding congestion.

The vehicle can even, in an emergency, float in water -- a reason why FOMM will first offer the car in flood-prone Thailand before exporting it to other Southeast Asian countries and Europe later.

FOMM plans to start production in Thailand with an annual target of 10,000 vehicles. The company is confident it will be able to win customers in Europe, where public awareness of environmental protection is strong, as well as in wider Southeast Asia.

Electric vehicles at present account for a fraction of the world auto market. By 2030, their proportion of global new auto sales is forecast to rise to 6.8%, according to Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting.

Electric cars are expected to gain ground gradually, taking market share from internal combustion engine vehicles on the back of tougher environmental regulations in China and Europe, the development of electric vehicle-charging infrastructure, and falling battery costs.

Mass-production of electric vehicles is at present limited to a small number of models, such as Nissan Motor's Leaf.

FOMM will pitch its compact car in Thailand by citing the four-seater's user-friendliness and low running costs thanks to relatively cheap electricity in the country.

Meanwhile, the company is accelerating its efforts to tie up with major companies in Japan. The startup has in recent months formed a sales alliance with consumer electronics retailer Yamada Denki and a technical alliance with Funai Electric.

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