Nissan to produce cars in 'economic engine' Myanmar

YANGON (AFP) - Japan's Nissan Motor unveiled plans on Friday to launch production in Myanmar, as international auto makers compete for a share of the former junta-ruled country's fast-growing car market.

Japanese auto producers are ramping up production in South-east Asia to offset sluggish sales in their domestic market and in recovering Western economies.

Nissan said that its Malaysian partner Tan Chong Motors would build the largest automobile manufacturing site in Myanmar, which is emerging from decades of harsh military rule.

The new plant will open in the Bago region in 2015 producing Nissan Sunny cars. With 300 workers, it will have a capacity to assemble more than 10,000 vehicles a year.

Financial terms of the partnership and the size of the planned investment were not disclosed.

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the move was "a key milestone in our global growth plan".

"We are confident that Myanmar will be an important economic engine for the region and are committed to help develop its automotive industry," he added.

Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia after decades of economic mismanagement and isolation under army rule.

Foreign investors are eagerly eyeing the resource-rich country following a series of dramatic political and economic reforms since military rule ended in 2011.

Huge import taxes and a US investment ban aimed at the previous regime had meant vehicles were too expensive for most people, but recent changes have seen a sharp increase in demand for cars.

Japan's Suzuki announced in February that it would resume production in Myanmar while American giant Ford Motor plans to open a showroom in Yangon by the end of the year.

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