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Myanmar 2014 Photo: How Chinese carmakers are faring

King Long Minivan in Old Bagan, Myanmar – December 2014

If Chinese manufacturers have been one of the fastest off the starting blocks at establishing a new car showroom presence in Yangon, this has not translated (yet) onto the car landscape. A estimated the market share of Chinese manufacturers in the Myanmar car park at between 3 and 5%. It is closer to 0.5% when deducting the numerous Chery QQ taxis imported by the Ministry of Industry back in 2011-2012. These imports have not resumed since. The complete overview is below.

Chery QQ taxi in Yangon, Myanmar – December 2014

Aside from low-cost taxis, a segment in which the Chery QQ fits perfectly alongside the Tata Nano and used Toyota Probox and Nissan AD (among the most popular), kei mini pickups and vans are the most frequent types of vehicles in Yangon as described in Myanmar 2014 Photo: The Cars of Yangon. This is currently the biggest opportunity for Chinese carmakers in Myanmar as their microvans and pick-ups are the only ones able to compete on price with used Japanese kei imports.

Changhe Freedom

Moreover, microvans are fast going out of fashion back at home in China, replaced by more spacious MPVs like the Wuling Hongguang or Baojun 730. Manufacturers like Chana, soon to open a showroom in Yangon, or Dongfeng, which cleverly pushed its sub-$10k pickups to the front of their Yangon showroom, are desperate to find new markets for these vehicles that used to sell like hotcakes in China. It’s a slow start though: I only spotted one Dongfeng micro pickup during the week I stayed in the country.

Lifan Foison (right)

Chana Pickup

So far, Changhe has had the best luck with Myanmar car buyers, with 8 Freedom minivans spotted in a couple of days in Yangon, some used as taxis, as well as a couple of pickups. Lifan is next with 5 Foison minivans and 2 pickups spotted. I also picked two Chana pickups but their license plates in Burmese characters indicates they were registered before 2013.

Jinbei Hiace in Bagan, Myanmar – December 2014

The touristic region of Bagan uses a large amount of MPVs – used Japanese Toyota Hiace and Alphard imports – to transport tourists from hotels to temples. There is a great opportunity here for Jinbei, King Long and Golden Dragon to sell their Hiace clones at half the price of a new one, the same way they do very successfully in Egypt, also tourist-focused. Indeed, I spotted one Jinbei Hiace and 3 King Long minivans there.

King Long Kingo in Bagan, Myanmar – December 2014

Passenger cars is where the Chinese are struggling in Myanmar as they are at home. MG is priced way too high to really be competitive against the likes of Kia and Toyota, and the average Dongfeng is still at $US22k, much higher than the standard Japanese import: as low as US$6k for a Toyota Probox, $12k-$15k for a Toyota Corolla or more recent Suzuki Swift. As a result, there are not many in the streets: I spotted on MG3, one Changan CX30 while Brilliance seems to have been slightly more successful at importing used cars: I saw 3 hatchbacks in the 4 days I spent in Yangon.

ZX Auto Grand Tiger in Bagan, Myanmar – December 2014

Trucks and motorcycles, on the other hand, are a different story. The Chinese have a monopoly on these two segments like I witnessed in Vietnam and Mongolia, two other countries sharing a border with China. Motorcycle sales are set to grow exponentially if/when they are allowed in Yangon. Note Forland is a separate brand from Foton here with its own showroom, Skat trucks are very popular, Foton Ollin trucks a little less.

The Photo Report continues below.

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