Toyota Motor has begun operations at its newly built assembly plant in Cambodia to consolidate its position in one of south east Asia’s smallest vehicle markets.

The US$37m factory, in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, employs 150 people and is operated by the Cambodian unit of Toyota Tsusho, Toyota’s trading unit.

Toyota Tsusho Manufacturing (Cambodia) is 90% owned by Toyota Tsusho and 10% by the local Kong Nuon Group.

The plant assembles the Toyota Hilux pickup truck and the Fortuner SUV derivative from semi knocked down (SKD) kits imported from Thailand.

According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, Toyota plans to assemble 1,320 vehicles at the facility in 2024 – 1,030 Hilux and 290 Fortuner.

Industry data showed that total vehicle sales in Cambodia increased 11% to 33,700 units last year, with Toyota the leading brand followed by Mitsubishi, although Chinese brands were beginning to make inroads.

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The inauguration ceremony was attended by Toyota Tsusho CEO Ichiro Kashitani and Cambodian prime minister Hun Manet who said he hoped “many other companies will follow suit. Cambodia needs this kind of investment”.

Toyota Tsusho said in a statement: “The start of assembly marks a new milestone in the more than 30 years of Toyota Tsusho’s history in Cambodia,” adding it planned to develop a local supply chain for these vehicles.

Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, Ueno Atsushi, said the operation would contribute to the “modernisation of Cambodian industry and human resource development in line with the royal government’s Pentagon strategy”.