Japanese automakers are creating electric pickup truck models for international markets

Japanese automakers are taking a big step in developing electric vehicle models of their popular pickup trucks, aiming to cater to the rapidly growing trend of decarbonization in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand. The production of electric-powered vehicles has always been considered challenging due to the high costs involved, but the industry is now undergoing a significant transformation.

A notable shift in the business strategy of Japanese automakers is being witnessed as they gear up to provide EV pickup trucks in the market. This move comes in response to the widespread popularity of pickup trucks in Southeast Asia and their extensive use as family and commercial vehicles in the region.

The appeal of pickup trucks lies in their ability to run on rough, unpaved roads, as well as their unroofed pickup beds that allow users to transport a wide range of items, from harvests to construction equipment. These features have contributed to pickup trucks accounting for about 20% of new car sales in the Southeast Asian region in 2022, with Thailand leading the trend at 47%, as reported by JATO Dynamics Ltd.

Isuzu Motors Ltd. recently announced its plans to manufacture pickup truck EVs in Thailand, with President Shinsuke Minami unveiling an improved D-MAX model at an event in Bangkok. The company aims to export and sell the EV version of D-MAX in 2025, expanding the sales channels of the model to Thailand and other areas. With about 30% of Isuzu Motors’ global sales coming from Thailand, the company’s decision to venture into EVs signals a significant shift in the region’s automobile industry.

The Thai government’s push to embrace EVs is evident as Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin emphasized the country’s need to transition to electric vehicles. Failure to do so, he warned, could result in being left behind in the greening of the automobile industry. As the government aims to expand production and sale of EVs, it sets the stage for automakers to tap into the growing market potential in the country.

However, pricing remains a major hurdle for the development and sale of EV pickup trucks. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. have outlined their plans to offer EV versions of their popular pickup truck models, Triton and F-150, respectively. Despite the anticipated demand for these vehicles in Southeast Asia, the higher prices associated with EVs, attributed to the substantial battery requirements, pose a challenge to market acceptance.

In contrast, Ford Motor Co. of the United States has already made a significant move by introducing EV models of the F-150 in 2022, positioning itself as a pioneer in the trend. With the global pickup truck market dominated by top players like Toyota and Ford, the entry of U.S. and European automakers into the market with more EV models could pose a threat to the presence of Japanese automakers. Consequently, there is a growing need for them to innovate and adapt to the changing dynamics of the automobile industry in order to stay competitive.


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