Chinese Carmaker Eyes Local Assembly Plant

The domination of Japanese and western carmakers in Cambodia’s market may be shaken up by Chinese brand Great Wall later this year, as the company looks to expand with an assembly plant in Phnom Penh.

Peang Mann, the chief executive of Great Wall’s official dealership in Cambodia, worldwide Garage Co. ltd., said yesterday that sales at the company’s showroom in Phnom Penh have been slower than anticipated but they may pick up pace when the assembly plant opens in Phnom Penh by about September.

“In the last three years since coming to Cambodia we have learnt a lot about the industry and are now ready to set up a SKD [semi knocked-down] assembly in Cambodia,” he said, referring to a partial set of parts used to make a car.

The cars made in Cambodia after the opening of the assembly plant will be pickup trucks and SUVs priced between $20,000 and $40,000, Mr. Mann said, declining to disclose the amount of Great Wall’s investment.

He said only that the factory expects to assemble about 1,500 cars per year and will import the parts from China and Malaysia.

The Malaysian government earlier this month awarded Great Wall, in partnership with the Go Automobile Manufacturing company, a license to build a $2 billion automobile assembly plant.

Go Automobile plans to produce 100,000 Great Wall cars in Malaysia by 2018.

Mr. Mann said he is optimistic that Great Wall will be able to stand up in Cambodia’s car market despite the domination of Japanese and western firms.

Toyota claims to hold a 70 percent share of the country’s light vehicle market.

“I’m confident that Great Wall and other Chinese brands are of equal and higher quality than competitors,” Mr. Mann said, predicting a 30 percent market share for Great Wall. “I’m not scared of the other brands. We will pose a big challenge.”

Local dealers of the more established car brands in the country said yesterday that they saw little threat in the opening of a Great Wall assembly plant in Phnom Penh.

“We don’t have to be worried because this is a free market, and so far i think Chinese cars here are very limited,” said Ly Bunhay, CEO of Toyota (Cambodia) Co. ltd.

Hin Sopheap, the deputy general manager of the automotive division of RMA, which sells Ford cars in Cambodia, mirrored Mr. Bunhay’s indifference.

“I think that there’s no concern for Ford in Cambodia. We are in a different segment and target different customers,” said Mr. Sopheap, adding that Ford had closed its own SKD assembly plant in Cambodia last year due to its lack of financial viability.

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