June 2-8, 2008 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 22, No. 421

Sunny pick-ups turn back the clock on Mandalay’s roads

By Phyo Wai Kyaw
The ubiquitous 1982/83-model Nissan Sunny pick-up, pictured left, right and centre, dominates the streets of Mandalay thanks to a combination of price and practicality.
Car traders say the current market price is about K10 million.

EVEN though it is a common sight for the people of Mandalay, non-residents would probably wonder at the large number of pickups in the ancient city – all the same make, colour and roof design. I’m talking, of course, of the ubiquitous all-white Nissan Sunny, with its medium-height roof.

While the latest models might be nicer-looking and grab more attention, most drivers in Mandalay find it hard to abandon their 1982/83-model Sunny pick-up – the vehicle of choice for nearly every pick-up owner.

The Nissan Sunny pick-ups might feel inferior to a high-class luxury car like a Land Cruiser, the middle-class favourite Toyota series or the locally-made jeeps and light trucks. However, old Sunny pickups manage to remain as popular as higher models with Mandalay drivers.

“We see three varieties of the ’82/’83-model Sunny pickups, the 120, 121 and 122. Sunny pickups are still the favourite car of many people and the demand for them is still strong. As for their model and current price – we define them as lower-class cars in the market but with proper maintenance they are still durable and strong enough for long term use,” said U Thein Zaw, director of Pan Hlaing Automobile Production.

What is the reason behind their remarkable popularity? Economics, mainly. Sunny pickups are relatively cheap to repair, use little fuel (they get between 25 and 30 miles per gallon) and are also convenient to use as a private taxi.

There are other reasons for their popularity though, said U Chit Ko Ko, a mechanic at Mandalay’s Japan Car Workshop.

“Sunny pickups are easy to manoeuvre and the turning circle is really good in a Sunny pickup and this makes it easy for women to drive. There are downsides though – the iron body is thin and they often need to be brought into the workshop for repairs to the car body,” U Chit Ko Ko said.

“But it’s easy to get second-hand, spare parts. Although it’s hard to find original parts, the spare parts from Thailand are good quality and fine to use,” he said, adding that they were also easy to repair.

All these factors have made the Sunny pickups Mandalay’s favourite vehicle – a sentiment reflected in their price tag, which is currently about K10 million, according to brokers. But for a ready-to-drive pick up, a buyer will need to fork out about K14 million in the current market.

It’s a far cry from when Sunny pickups first came to Mandalay, in about 1980, when they had a price of about K100,000, which rose to more than K1 million in 1997-98. But now, a 1991 model Sunny pickup in good condition generally fetches about K16 million.

While the price of most cars in Myanmar’s automobile market fluctuates considerably, the Sunny pickup is the exception due to the steady demand. Brokers say their usefulness, ease of repair and quality construction will ensure they are the dominant force in the the Mandalay automobile market for at least another decade.

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