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Ford Motor will open a showroom in Rangoon by the end of the year, making it the first US automaker to enter Burma after the rollback of sanctions in the once junta-ruled nation.
The firm will sell and service vehicles with a local partner firm, as it seeks to tap demand in a nation where huge import taxes and a US investment ban aimed at the previous regime meant cars were too expensive for many.
However, import regulations have been eased by Burma as part of the reform process to allow more vehicles to be brought in from overseas for those who can afford them while the US last year ended its investment ban.
Vehicles will be directly imported from Thailand and the US, the carmaker said, after Washington scrapped investment embargoes last year as a reward for democratic reforms undertaken by the nominally civilian government since 2011.
“We are both excited and proud to support the US government’s call to invest in Myanmar (Burma) and to be at the forefront of the positive change that is taking place here,” said Dave Westerman, Asia Pacific Regional Manager of Ford Export and Growth Operations.
As the economy develops “Myanmar’s people and businesses will increasingly want and require personal, as well as commercial vehicles to help support their progressing lives, lifestyles and businesses”, he added.
Partner firm Capital Automotive said the showroom would hire local people, bringing new skills to a previously limited sector of the economy.
Until the end of junta rule, most of the rusting automobiles on the streets of Rangoon came from Japan, although there are also classic Western models dating back to the pre-junta era half a century ago.
Several other major car firms are entering the market, with Japan’s Suzuki announcing in February it will resume production in Burma.
Foreign firms are eagerly eyeing Burma as its once-closed market, with the nation of 60 million people suddenly thrust on to the frontline of global consumerism.