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Myanmar: Asia’s Final Frontier Car Market

Earlier this month I spent four days in Myanmar, the proud and reclusive nation of 52 million sandwiched between India, China and Thailand.

My purpose: Work with officials in the Myanmar government to develop plans for a competitive auto industry.

The timing could not be better: Fast-emerging and increasingly affordable EV and autonomous vehicle technologies offer opportunities to Myanmar that neighboring countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia never had — especially if one sets goals for 2030 and beyond.

My previous visits to Myanmar occurred in the 1990s when the nation was an autocracy. At that time, the only cars on the road were black Audi sedans (imported from China) that escorted top military officials around town.

The current government is democratically-elected.

Modern Myanmar History At-A-Glance

1824-1948: British Colonial Burma

1948-1962: Early Independence

1962-2011: Military Rule

2012-Present: Democracy

What I experienced on this visit was a nation of vibrant and technology-embracing people. Residents in Yangon and other major cities are already highly fluent in mobile applications.

Use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat is widespread. When I arrived at the Yangon (British formulation, Rangoon) airport, I was pleasantly surprised to find a highly modern airport with free and fast wi-fi service.

Grab, the Uber service of Southeast Asia, is already a regular fixture for Myanmar commuters.

Like China, Myanmar leaders sense an opportunity to use technology to leap ahead – to go from no phones to mobile phones, from no cars to (possibly) electric or hybrid cars.

The auto industry itself is just beginning to take baby steps. New cars sales this year will climb to around 12,000 units, up from 4,000 two years ago. To put that 12,000 number into perspective, Thailand built that many cars in the first few days of January.

Source: Forbes

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