Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

The greening of Asia

With climate change and global warming increasingly worrisome, how has Asia’s automotive industry responded? In 2009, Thailand – the world’s 14th largest automotive exporter – announced its ambition to become a manufacturing hub for eco-cars. To help the ‘green vehicle’ sector, the Thai Board of Investment launched an eco-car programme, cutting down import duties on fuel-efficient cars by 90 percent and reducing production costs by about US$3,000 per vehicle. The Bangkok Post states that the Thai government may prolong the country’s eco-car project to assist overall auto production.

Another country taking the wheel is Indonesia. Siddharth Philip writes for Bloomberg that economists have predicted approximately 6.3 percent growth of the Indonesian eco-car market between 2013 and 2016. This would place Indonesia in the lead amongst major Asian economies, second only to China. Since 2007, auto companies such as Nissan, Suzuki, Toyota, India’s Tata Motors, Honda and Mitsubishi have joined the eco-car incentives in Thailand and have switched manufacturing to that country. The total investment pledged by these companies surpasses US$1.2 billion.

In 2009, the Japanese auto company Toyota – whose efforts receive government support – sold 31,758 units of its hybrid Toyota Prius model in September alone, and 111,298 in the first half of the year. As of April 2013, Prius sales accounted for 40 percent of local sales in Japan and 14 percent of Toyota’s global sales.

As for China, according to The New York Times and Asia Society, Beijing plans to invest as much as US$15 billion towards developing energy-efficient vehicles. If this plan solidifies, China will become the leading producer of electric and hybrid cars worldwide. – Anjali Menon