YANGON, Myanmar – Ford Motor Co. has signed a deal to distribute vehicles in Myanmar, the head of Ford’s local partner said Thursday.
Khin Tun, the director of Capital Automotive, said Ford’s first showroom in Yangonwill sell cars and pickup trucks, and could open as early as May.
Ford spokesman Neal McCarthy said the company is “gearing up for market entry” and has a local distributor, but declined to discuss details.
PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, GE, Caterpillar and Danish brewer Carlsberg have all signed distribution deals in Myanmar, as rapid political and economic changes transform the country from pariah state to investor darling.
Lingering uncertainties about the stability of Myanmar’s transformation and fears the U.S. could reinstate sanctions have discouraged many Western companies from making large, long-term investments. But the deals show how Myanmar’s economic landscape is starting to change.
Much of the old economic order still prevails, but a few industries once monopolized by military and crony businesses are beginning to open to new players.
Business executives who have avoided the taint of Western sanctions are snapping up deals with foreign partners. And some of the old “cronies,” long disparaged for their links to the country’s repressive military leaders, are now trying to rebrand themselves to attract some of the rush of foreign capital.
Vehicle imports, for example, used to be so tightly controlled – and highly prized – that the government was able to cover much of the construction cost of its new capital city, Naypyitaw by paying “crony” businessmen with permits to import vehicles.
Myanmar loosened vehicle import restrictions in late 2011, transforming the streets of the country’s commercial capital, Yangon, from quiet lanes to gridlock. Old Japanese cars still dominate the streets here.