In what appears to be a silent takeover, AC Motors, the automotive subsidiary of the Ayala Corporation, is now the distributor of BYD in the Philippines, fueling speculations among the business community about the conglomerate’s completion of its full EV ecosystem.
A well-placed insider at AC Motors told CleanTechnica that although a formal announcement of the takeover will be made on August 11, the changeover has already been done. The current distributor, Solar Transport and Automotive Resources Corp.(STAR), will become the first of many dealers under the new management setup. The story first broke on Autofun.ph, written by its editor-in-chief, Mikko David.
CleanTechnica sources at BYD vehicle import division in Shenzhen, China, chose to keep mum on the subject, saying that the deal is going to be signed by August 8, although discussion on the transfer of the distributorship had taken place as early as March 2023. Thus, our sources seem to confirm that even during the 2023 Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), where BYD Philippines president Mark Tieng introduced a new lineup which included the reinvigorated Dolphin and Tang, and also launched the all-new Han.
Even earlier this year, in February, BYD sent feelers throughout the ASEAN car manufacturing hubs in search of a base for the assembly of its vehicles in Southeast Asia. In early March, the company announced a short list of countries which included the Philippines. BYD later announced that it selected Vietnam.
A government-released press statement said that after the meeting between BYD’s founder and chair Wang Chuanfu and Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha on May 5, they closed the deal. CleanTechnica found out that at this stage, it was not whole assembly of cars, but rather the production of car parts and electric components which will be done in Vietnam. A report from Reuters confirmed this, saying that BYD was to set up an assembly plant planned in Thailand with an annual production target of 150,000 cars.
ASEAN automotive experts in the region, however, said that BYD could still locate in the Philippines.
Another CleanTechnica source from Vinfast commented that in BYD’s pursuit of the ASEAN EV market, Vietnam and the Philippines are favorable locations because both countries are left-hand drive markets, compared to Indonesia and Malaysia being right-hand drive.
“This is a significant consideration,” our source said. “It isn’t just a manufacturing or design concern, because assembly lines can be configured easily — it is a matter of market acceptance. Vinfast, Vietnam’s own automobile brand, has since April of last year stopped production of ICE vehicles and focused completely on EVs. It recently inaugurated its plant in North Carolina, USA.
These developments have now fueled speculation in automotive circles in the Philippines.
AC Motors also owns three other car brands and used to assemble Honda vehicles locally. The Honda plant has been mothballed since April 2020, and the sprawling facility now operates as a warehouse and pre-delivery inspection site for Honda vehicles imported from Thailand and Japan.
The company also owns AC Industrials and IMI Corporation, which recently started assembly of Zero Motorcycles in the Philippines. These are not for local consumption and are to be exported to Europe. The extensive experience and strong capabilities of AC Motors in the field of vehicle manufacturing could prove to be a plus once the BYD distributorship is in full swing.
“Ayala can easily convince BYD that they are the best partner in the region when it comes to assembly and distributorship,” Gregory E. Bautista, an automotive journalist and statistician who keeps an eye on the growth of the Philippine car business. “They also are becoming a younger company, AC Motors’ new CEO is very young.”
That CEO is Jaime Alfonso Zobel de Ayala, who will become the new president and CEO of AC Motors. The internal company announcement was leaked to CleanTechnica and confirmed later by reports from Autofun.ph and Autoindustriya.com.
The Ayala Group’s renewable energy portfolio includes wind and solar project in the Philippines, Vietnam, and in the mainland USA. The acquisition of BYD adds to its ecosystem of power generation, charging stations, and battery storage and swapping. It also operates the Kia brand in the Philippines and has released the EV6 recently.
CleanTechnica reached out to Solar Transport and Automotive Resources Corp. (STAR) and its CEO Mark Tieng, but there was no response by press time. However, it was confirmed that expansion is now going on at the only BYD dealer in the country now.
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