UK-based light commercial vehicle specialist LDV is set to enter Far East markets in collaboration with Malaysia’s Weststar Group.

The new British-Malaysia product partnership will see LDV and Weststar launch the UK van specialist’s Maxus range of products in 20 countries beginning in Vietnam and Indonesia, followed by other Asean countries, Australia, New Zealand and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states.

Weststar LDV has secured exclusive rights as franchise holder and will market, assemble, distribute and service the full range of Maxus light commercial vehicles in the 20 countries.

The firms said this is the first time a Malaysian company has acquired the rights to assemble a current model and distribute it outside Malaysia shores under its own brand name.

Dato’ Seri Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, managing director of Weststar LDV said: “Asia’s economic rise has resulted in the over-production of passenger cars and under-investment in light commercial vehicles. Demand is at a high point across the countries we serve, and rapidly rising.

“Our entry point, with demand outpacing supply, means that we may need to ramp up production and make cross-supply arrangements to fill gaps in the supply of light commercial vehicles across the 20 countries we operate in.

“In one stroke, this British-Malaysia partnership creates a multi-country opening for us while falling in step with Malaysia’s National Automotive Policy, which is to have our auto industry footprint spanning the region.”

LDV’s UK chief executive Steve Young said the new partnership was another positive step forward for the van maker: “When GAZ International purchased LDV in 2006, we said that our ambitions were to take the Maxus range across the globe. Our partnership with Weststar reflects this ambition.”

The Maxus range will be assembled in Pekan, Pahang, and undergo post-assembly fit-out in the Klang Valley. The initial production run will be 600 units this year.

Azman added: “We are off to a good start in Malaysia. To date, we have sold a good number of units and secured healthy orders for our first batch of vehicles. Government agencies, institutions and services providers have expressed keen interest to purchase our vehicles.

“Our studies have shown that demand by the public sector, businesses and institutions for specialised and high capacity carriers is set to climb dramatically over the next decade as the government continues to push for wider industrial development.”

According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, light vehicles command half of Malaysian commercial vehicle sales.

The research firm said that the commercial vehicle market reached 50,098 units in 2005 and this would likely increase to 69,302 units in 2012 at a compound annual growth rate of 4.7%.

As for immediate expansion, Weststar LDV has identified Vietnam and Indonesia as new markets, each of which has a large population base and equally fast growing economies.

“We are looking at working with assembly plant owners in these two countries and we expect to kick off initial production of 600 units in each country by the fourth quarter of the year,” said Syed Azman.

The vehicles can be fitted out with special equipment by local sub contractors.

“Our vehicles currently have 18% local content, and we intend to move this up to 40% by year-end. In this respect, our presence will provide a platform for Malaysia’s growing pool of automotive vendors to develop and supply specialised equipment and components which is a lucrative niche,” said Syed Azman.