Monday, August 21, 2017

Suzuki to open Yangon factory in 2018

Suzuki Motor Corporation is planning to expand its operations in Myanmar with a factory in Thilawa special economic zone that will start production in 2018, the company’s managing director said yesterday.

The Japanese multinational first started making automobiles and motorcycles in Myanmar in 1999 at a joint-venture factory with the government in Yangon’s South Dagon township.

“After 12 years of operations we had to stop production, as our investment permit expired,” said managing director Takayuki Sugiyama of Suzuki (Myanmar) Motor Company. “However, we maintained the facilities and restarted production in May 2013, with a new licence.”

The company must rely on local suppliers, which Mr Sugiyama said was a major challenge. For this and other reasons, he said, Suzuki has bought 20 hectares of land in Thilawa SEZ and will build its own factory there.

He said he hopes the government will set reasonable policies around car imports. Since the previous government opened the market for imports in 2011, more than 7 million cars have been brought into the country.

The current government must now decide whether it will encourage more imports or support the market for local production, Mr Sugiyama said.

“Foreign investors like Myanmar, because it has a lot of land and human resources. But they are wary of investing because there are no clear laws or policies on the automobile industry,” U Khin Maung Kyaw, president of the Automobile Policy Drafting Task Force told The Myanmar Times.

“They want precise laws to protect their investments. That is why we are trying to come up with a clear automobile policy that can contribute to a win-win solution between Myanmar and foreign countries.”

Neighbouring countries such as Thailand have developed into automobile manufacturing hubs, he said, adding that even if Myanmar is unable to export homemade vehicles, it would at least be able to sell them domestically.

“But I should emphasise that we must manufacture the cars that are suitable for Myanmar, for example those with 1.3cc engines, which are cheap enough for many people to buy,” he said.

“Economy-class cars, to match Myanmar’s economic situation.”