November 29, 2012 / 4:05 AM / 5 years ago

Land Rover's Southeast Asia partner hungry to get into Myanmar

* Talks underway with three potential dealerships

* Guava International calls Vietnam promising market

* ASEAN trade move opens door to regional production

By Paul Carsten

BANGKOK, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Land Rover vehicles in the hundreds have found their way into Myanmar over the past year as the country has opened up. Now Jaguar Land Rover’s partner for Southeast Asia is laying the groundwork for its first official foray into the territory.

Discussions are under way with three potential dealership partners in Myanmar and official sales should begin in 2013, Dale Jones, chief executive officer of Guava International, told Reuters at the 29th Thailand Motor Expo.

“Everyone’s trying to understand what is the right way to compete, how do you set up business. The market is changing very quickly, (there are) a lot of new policies in place. We see that as an excellent opportunity,” Jones said.

Jaguar Land Rover is owned by Tata Motors Ltd.

Myanmar, for half a century a pariah state, began a series of reforms when its junta stepped aside in 2011. With the suspension of Western sanctions and a new investment law, the country, strategically situated between economic powerhouses China and India, is becoming a magnet for overseas firms.

The government started a “cars for clunkers” system late last year, allowing people to trade in old cars for licences allowing them to purchase models built no earlier than 1995. .

Guava International, which operates Jaguar Land Rover sales and services across more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, has seen sales in Thailand this year outperform overall growth in the luxury car sector.

Year-on-year sales of the high-end Range Rover model are up 60 percent compared to an estimated 15 to 20 percent growth for the sector overall.

With a new Range Rover model for Thailand announced at the motor show on Wednesday, Guava projects year-on-year sales in 2013 will increase 30 percent, meaning total retail sales of between 200 and 250 units.

Jones declined to give a sales target for Myanmar, but he said Vietnam is also a future bright spot for the luxury sports utility vehicle, despite a slowdown in sales this year.

”We see the forecasts for the next three years continuing to grow significantly,“ said Jones. ”With new products and the economic growth, we see growth surpassing 30 percent.

Jaguar Land Rover’s gaze is focused upon Southeast Asia in general in light of the ASEAN Economic Community due to come into effect at the end of 2015.

“With the elimination of the trade barriers around all ASEAN markets, it will make Jaguar Land Rover look to the region to see if we should be having manufacturing capacity, be taking advantage of this large, single free-trade market,” Jones said.

“I can’t answer for Jaguar Land Rover, but I know there are studies at this point to understand the market and be able to understand what is the best action to take. I would expect positive things.”

Editing by Alan Raybould and Matt Driskill

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