Ford to Begin Selling Vehicles in Myanmar Through Well-Connected Business Group

Feb 28, 2013 11:26 AM EST

Country roads once dominated by old Japanese cars will soon see a new set of wheels in town as Ford prepares to brings its cars and trucks to Myanmar.

Ford's first showroom will open in Yangon and will be selling vehicles as soon as May, the Associated Press reported.

A Ford spokesman declined to discuss details, but indicated to the AP that the company is "gearing up for market entry."

Myanmar loosened vehicle import restrictions in 2011, which transformed the commercial capital Yangon's streets from quiet to gridlocked in a matter of years.

Vehicle imports in the country used to be tightly controlled by the military-backed government, which reportedly would use permits to import vehicles, rather than cash, as payments to crony businessmen. Such practices led the government to be able to cover much of the construction costs of the country's new capital city, Naypyitaw, the AP reported.

The Ford cars will be sold through Capital Automotive, Ltd., which has ties to Capital Diamond Star Group, the country's sole distributor of Pepsi and one of the largest trading empires in Myanmar, reported the Myanmar news website Eleven.

It was unclear which Ford models will be sold in Myanmar, though in neighboring Thailand the Fiesta and Focus sedans, Escape and Everest SUVs and Ranger and Territory trucks are sold.

A delegation of 50 U.S. business executives met in Myanmar earlier this week for a conference, the largest meeting of American business interests in the country since sanctions were eased last year, The Voice of America reported. U.S. companies including Chevron, General Motors, Target Corp., ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar, General Electric International, Honeywell and eBay were pat of the delegation. It was unclear whether Ford was represented.  

As part of the conference, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez met with the president of Myanmar's business association, prompting a report from the Associated Press to state that their meeting "illustrates the complex and sometimes contradictory path the U.S. is forging as it tries to encourage new business ties with Myanmar while retaining moral sway over powerful economic, political and military interests it has long censured. Many praise the ethical stance taken by U.S. policymakers and hope that the entry of U.S. companies will help forge a more transparent, less corrupt corporate culture."  

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