Mazda to start selling new cars in Myanmar, CEO says

TOKYO Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:08pm EDT

1 of 2. Mazda Motor Corp Chief Executive Officer Masamichi Kogai speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo September 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) will start selling new vehicles soon in Myanmar, its chief executive said, as carmakers rush to get a foothold in the country that until recently was under international economic sanctions.

As a part of a plan to sell cars in all member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Mazda plans to send a range of vehicles to Myanmar rather than only sell low-grade models, Chief Executive Masamichi Kogai said.

"The purpose is to build our brand and create Mazda fans," he told Reuters in an interview this month. He added that the start of sales "won't be so distant in the future" and the number of vehicles it will sell there will be small.

Myanmar's new car market started to bloom around 2011, after the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein took over and overturned imports restrictions of the military government.

There are around 340,000 passenger cars registered in Myanmar, government data shows, shared among a population of more than 60 million people. Most of the cars are Japanese.

About half a dozen companies from Japan, India, South Korea and the United States are currently manufacturing cars or have showrooms in Myanmar.

Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) plans to start a complete knock down production of its cars in Myanmar with a Malaysian partner Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd (TNCS.KL), an individual close to the company told Reuters this week.

Nissan is expected to announce details as early as Friday.

In July, Nissan and Tan Chong Motor, with whom Nissan already works together in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, opened Nissan's first showroom in Myanmar, selling a pickup truck and a commercial van.

Earlier this year, Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T) resumed production of vehicles in Myanmar for the first time in three years, manufacturing about 100 small trucks a month.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) opened its first showroom in Myanmar in April, while General Motors (GM.N) is preparing to open its first Chevrolet showroom later this year.

(Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing, Aung Hla Tun in Yangon and Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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