France's Mia may establish electric car plant in Korea

JEJUDO ISLAND - Mia Electric, the France-based manufacturer of economical electric vehicles, is considering building an assembly plant in Korea - the first outside its home turf - with the aim to start car sales here as early as next year.

"Our ultimate goal is to sell 'made-in-Korea' vehicles for Korean customers," Jung Jong-hun, chief marketing officer of Mia Electric Korea, told The Korea Herald on Saturday at the company's booth during the International Electric Vehicle Expo held on Jejudo Island.

"Rather than importing completed vehicles from France, we are considering building our flagship microbuses at our own Korean factory," he said, but declined to further elaborate.

If the French electric car maker goes ahead with the plan, it will become the sixth automotive company to build and operate a production line in Korea, along with Hyundai Motor, its affiliate Kia Motors, GM Korea, Ssangyong Motor and Renault Samsung Motors.

Mia Electric, established in 2010, has been seeking to expand its presence beyond the European market. In February, the carmaker set up a Korean unit, an affiliate of Mia Electric Asia that oversees some 40 countries in the region excluding China.

Its flagship models are the full-electric, three-seat Mia microbuses with a central driver's seat. Thus far all the vehicles have been produced in France.

Adding to its stylish French aesthetic, the Mia bus appeals to consumers with an attractive price. In France, the Mia bus' entry price starts from 17,500 euros (S$30,800) ― the lowest price tag among EV vehicles on the market.

Considering a possible Korean production facility and government subsidies for EVs, the French EV maker is expected to woo local customers with a more competitive pricing policy than other EV makers.

"We are also expecting to benefit from the carbon tax bill that will take effect from next year in Korea," said the Mia official.

He was referring to a new government scheme that aims to directly charge motorists depending on the amount of CO2 emissions their vehicles produce, while offering cash benefits to those driving lower-emission cars such as hybrid and electric vehicles.

The earlier target of Mia buses used to be small vendors and delivery service providers, but more recently a younger and hipper generation of drivers has started to think of electric cars as a possible option for everyday use as well, according to the company.

Mia will display its two minibus models during the week-long EV expo in Jejudo, the world's first exhibition solely dedicated to electric vehicles, which runs through March 21. The company's Korean-French CEO Michele Boos is scheduled to deliver a speech at a sideline conference on Monday.