Indian business giant Tata Motors has confirmed that it will soon begin selling heavy trucks to Burma as part of a purchase and sale agreement with Burma’s Apex Greatest Industrial Co.
A spokesperson from Tata told The Irrawaddy that the sale of other Tata products, including commercial and passenger vehicles, will follow as per the needs and demands of the market in Burma.
Tata Motors already signed a contract in March 2010 with Myanma Automobile and Diesel Industries Ltd, a firm operating under Burma’s Ministry of Industry 2, whereby it would construct a heavy truck assembly plant at Magwe in central Burma, a plant that is now operational.
Tata’s plans follow an announcement by Burma’s Ministry of Commerce which now allows its citizens to import vehicles, with companies like India’s Tata and Japan’s Mitsubishi showing strong interest in the new market.
“If a [Burmese] person wants to buy a car, they prefer Japanese cars,” said a Rangoon car dealer. “Apart from the price, they are stylish, well-made, secure and more durable than others.”
But although Burmese consumers have traditionally favored Japanese motor vehicles, Tata said it is confident it can compete in the new Burmese market.
“The company’s commercial and passenger vehicles are already being marketed in several countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the CIS, Russia and South America. Therefore, the company’s products compete in the international market and are appropriately benchmarked,” said the company’s spokesperson.
At present in Burma, domestically produced vehicles—constructed in industrial zones under joint-Chinese investment plans—are considerably cheaper than imported cars.
The most popular are Cherry Mini saloons and Myanmar Mini saloons which are not unlike the Tata Nano, but which are often criticized for their weak structure and temperamental wiring system.
“Those [Mini] cars are good-looking and retail at around 5 million kyat [over US $6,000], but many customers doubt their strength,” said the car dealer. “If the Tata Nano or any vehicle proves itself more durable, it will win the hearts of Burma’s drivers.”