YANGON -- Ford Motor Co. (IW 1000/8) officially opened its first authorized dealership in Myanmar Friday, joining a rush to set up shop in the former junta-ruled country as the West rolls back sanctions.
Despite price tags beyond the reach of many in the impoverished nation, the auto giant said more than 1,500 customers had already visited the showroom since its "soft launch" two months ago.
Myanmar's population of 60 million and growing demand for cars "excites us," said Ford regional manager David Westerman.
"That's what is going to create that growth in the coming years and decades ahead," he said.
Foreign investors are eagerly eyeing the resource-rich country following dramatic political and economic reforms since military rule ended in 2011.
Huge import taxes and international sanctions aimed at the previous regime had meant vehicles were too expensive for most people, but recent changes have seen a sharp increase in demand for four wheels.
Many cars on the roads in Myanmar are second-hand imported Japanese vehicles.
New imported cars remain expensive, with the Ford Explorer starting from $105,000.
The Thai-made Ford Single Cab Ranger, which is classified for commercial use and therefore not subject to the same level of import taxes, has a price tag of $22,000 and upwards.
Foreign auto makers are also looking to set up manufacturing facilities in the country. Nissan Motor recently unveiled plans to launch production in Myanmar with its Malaysian partner Tan Chong Motors, following in the footsteps of Suzuki.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013