Ford Enters Myanmar With Yangon Dealer as U.S. Relations Improve

Ford Motor Co. said it began operating today in Myanmar, a country isolated for five decades until the U.S. eased sanctions last year.

The automaker will open its first dealership in Yangon, the former capital, in partnership with Capital Automotive Ltd., a unit of Myanmar’s Capital Diamond Star Group, Ford said in an e-mailed statement. Initial models for sale include the F-series and Ranger pickup trucks, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford said.

Ford follows India's Tata Motors Ltd. and Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. in setting up operations in Myanmar as the country enhances economic and political ties with Western nations following years of military rule. Ford, which will import models for sale in Myanmar from Thailand and the U.S., said its entry into the country is part of an “aggressive expansion” in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We see tremendous potential and opportunity for Ford in Myanmar,” David Westerman, Asia Pacific regional manager for the company’s export and growth operations, said in the statement. Through the partnership, Ford is “well-positioned to fully realize the huge potential of this market over the long term,” he said.

Myanmar President Thein Sein’s efforts to end five decades of military rule have been rewarded with an easing of U.S. and European sanctions.

The nation, bordering countries including China, India and Thailand, has implemented policy shifts since Thein Sein took office two years ago. The central bank scrapped a 35-year fixed currency system in April 2012, and is moving to unify multiple exchange rates for the local currency, kyat, that have restricted transfers abroad and disadvantaged private exporters.

Tata Motors established its first dealership in Yangon on April 7 to sell and service its trucks and buses. The Mumbai-based company is setting up a heavy-truck assembly plant in Magwe, central Myanmar, with a capacity to produce 1,000 vehicles a year initially, Tata said.

Suzuki gained approval from Myanmar’s government to set up a new production and sales subsidiary, and plans to make small trucks in Yangon starting in May, the company said in February.

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