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Ford Motor Co Announces SUV Assembly Launch in Cambodia

The Ford Motor Co announced yesterday that it has begun assembling the 2012 Ford Everest SUV in Cambodia and has started selling the SUVs domestically, marking the first assembly of a retail vehicle here by Ford.

The first car off the assembly line was purchased by Prime Minister Hun Sen, Ford and its local partner, RMA Cambodia, said in a statement.

“In support of Ford and RMA Group’s contribution to Cambodia… Prime Minister Hun Sen has purchased the first Ford Everest to come out of the assembly plant,” the statement said.

MA Cambodia CEO Rami Sharaf said during the conclusion of the US-Asean Business Council summit in Phnom Penh that the decision to assemble the Everest in Cambodia was made after a personal plea by Mr. Hun Sen.

Production of the Everest began in December last year in a temporary factory in Sihanoukville, but RMA Cambodia is planning to open a $3 million assembly plant in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone this year to assemble the Everest, Ford’s Asia Pacific regional manager David Westerman said.

“We saw a strategic opportunity where the Cambodian market is growing and we see great potential here,” Mr. Westerman said. “We trained the Cambodian staff to ensure that the quality of what is produced here is identical to elsewhere”.

Mr. Westerman said the vehicles would be assembled from imported parts from a Ford plant in Thailand, and that engines would arrive already assembled.

“Engines are imported because [the assembly] is very high-tech and complicated and we’re not ready,” said RMA Cambodia deputy country manager Ngorn Saing, adding that the plant employs 47 laborers.

“We’ve produced 42-Everest so far, and our objective is to reach 150 units this year,” he said, adding that the first ford SUV was assembled in December.

Mr. Westerman said that he hoped the lower cost of the vehicle-which ranges from about $46,000 to $56,000- as a result of local production would increase Ford’s new vehicle market share here, which currently lags behind Toyota’s. He also said that it was possible other Ford models would be assembled in Cambodia in the future.

Ford is the third international firm to join with a local partner to assemble vehicles in Cambodia. Last year, Cambodia-and Korea-owned Comko Motor Company opened a plant in Koh Kong to assemble Hyundai vehicles. Despite its goal to produce 1,000 vehicles annually, Camko Director Lim Visal said local demand continues to be a challenge.

“Sales volume has seen steady growth, but still the scale is very small for an assembler,” Mr. Visal said. “We can handle a lot more it’s not efficient.”

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