Nissan and its local partner Tan Chong Motor (Myanmar) Co., Ltd. (TCMM) have begun assembling cars in Myanmar (also widely known by its former name, Burma), starting with the ‘New Sunny’ model.

The assembly operations will initially use the existing Tan Chong facility.

“With the introduction of the locally assembled New Nissan Sunny today, we are confident that this will further cement our commitment and support to the Myanmar Government in developing the automotive industry,” said Dato’ Tan Seng Sung, Consultant to Tan Chong Group, in his opening remarks.

“Nissan is pleased to be a strong player in the growth of automotive industry in Myanmar,” said Yutaka Sanada, Regional Senior Vice President, Nissan Asia & Oceania region. “This is a key milestone in our wider growth strategy in the region, including countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. We are eager to develop a long and productive relationship with the people of Myanmar and continue to generate returns throughout the supply chain, stimulate jobs and investment.”

“I am pleased that Tan Chong Group, the sole distributor of Nissan vehicles in Myanmar, will further expand their business in Myanmar with the construction of a CKD assembly plant, thus, bringing in investment and employment opportunities to the local community to help boost the economic growth and elevate income levels,” said Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, Yangon Region Government.

Nissan will  be building the Nissan Sunny as an SKD (semi-knocked-down) operation and looking to eventually move to CKD (complete knock-down) operation in a new plant and localise supply where possible. It also hopes to encourage its own suppliers to set up in the country.

Nissan estimates the car market in Myanmar at around 120,000 cars a year, but that is mainly made up of used vehicles. Strong economic growth in the country leads analysts to see it as having good long-term growth prospects.

Nissan has said that it will start with local assembly of the Sunny, but is studying the market for other vehicle segments – such as small MPVs, pickups and SUVs.

Analysis of ASEAN markets by just-auto shows that the smaller national markets have enjoyed rapid growth recently and Myanmar may be viewed as in a similar vein or ‘next wave’. Some of the region’s smaller “tiger” economies have enjoyed very strong economic growth over the last few years and this has translated into sharp increases in vehicle sales.

The Philippines and Vietnam enjoyed economic growth rates of 7% and 6% respectively in 2016, in a region where many developing economies have experienced slowing growth. These two countries have been playing catch-up with their larger ASEAN neighbours after a long period of under-performance.

Vehicle sales in the Philippines hit an estimated 22% growth to a record 392,000 in 2016, while sales in Vietnam grew by more than 31% to around 274,000 units. Vehicle ownership in these countries is much lower than in their larger ASEAN neighbours, and the same is true of Myanmar.

Myanmar at a glance

Population in 2011 (estimated, millions) 48.337
Population density in 2011 (per square kilometre) 71.4
Capital city and population in 2011 (millions) Nay Pyi Taw (1.1)
GDP per capita (current US$, 2011) 1144
Currency Kyat (MMK)
Telephone subscribers, total (per 100 inhabitants, 2011) 3.7
Internet users (per 100 inhabitants, 2011) 1
Source: UN