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Business

Luxury car brands charging into Myanmar

YANGON -- The first Jaguar showroom in Myanmar opened last month on the heels of Mercedes-Benz's debut as the world's automakers look to cash in on the Southeast Asian nation's luxury car market.

     British automaker Jaguar Land Rover built the 1,000 sq. meter showroom in downtown Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. Nine main models are displayed there, including the top-of-the-line Jaguar F-Type sports car, which just hit the global market last year and starts at $265,000, and the Jaguar XF sedan, with a starting price of $149,000.

     The cheapest offering, the Land Rover Freelander SUV, costs more than $110,000, still well beyond the reach of many in this country, where the gross domestic product per capita is around $900 -- the lowest in Southeast Asia. Yet the head of Jaguar Land Rover's local sales agent said it aims to sell 100 units in the first six months from the showroom's opening.

     Myanmar's affluent are mainly entrepreneurs who launched businesses in the 1990s or later, many in such fields as wholesale, retail, trading and construction -- protected markets that have grown since the country started taking steps toward democracy in spring 2011. Managers of overseas corporations are also seen as prospective buyers of luxury cars.

     Sales have been strong at the Mercedes-Benz showroom that Germany's Daimler opened in May. It received some 50 orders in a month, mainly for luxury sedans, including the roughly $160,000 E-Class.

     BMW, also from Germany, plans to open its first showroom in Yangon in October. And U.K. automaker Rolls Royce has indicated that it will enter Myanmar.

     Japanese carmakers are also getting in on the action. Toyota has already opened a showroom and sells large luxury SUVs, including the Land Cruiser Prado.

     In Myanmar, used-cars are the biggest sellers. New cars are estimated to account for only 10% of the roughly 100,000 cars newly registered in 2013.

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