The team from Ford, (left to right) RMA Director Tom Whitcraft, Dave Johnston, Chief Financial Officer of Ford ASEAN, Rami Sharaf of RMA Cambodia and DJ Simpson, Ford District Manager for Southeast Asia. Photograph: Stuart Alan Becker/Phnom Penh Post
Before the big dinner with Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the leaders of Thailand and Myanmar on July 13 in Siem Reap, Tom Whitcraft of RMA Group, which owns the Ford dealership in Cambodia, sat down for an interview.
Whitcraft said Ford has about 20 per cent of Cambodia’s new car market. It all started when his father Mark Whitcraft arrived in Thailand in 1958 as the regional sales manager for Goodyear Tire Company.
Today RMA is a global giant representing brand names of vehicles, fleets and equipment for mining, agricultural equipment, as well as food franchises like Pizza Company, Dairy Queen and Swenson’s Ice Cream.
Whitcraft said Cambodia is a classic example of a post-conflict economy, having come up from 1992, when 80 per cent of RMA’s business was from the NGOs and the multilateral agencies like the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“If you look at our business now, there’s been complete shift to commercial,” he said.
RMA runs a modification plant in Laem Chabang, near Pattaya, Thailand, and one in Sihanoukville, where the Ford Everest is assembled.
Whitcraft said the RMA Group is unique in the Ford world as only one of three global fleet dealers. He said the Cambodian government has been a “wonderful partner” through the years.
“We were here through some of the darker days and we never left town, even when a lot of other people left. That’s built a huge level of loyalty in key Cambodian staff. The Cambodians are highly resourceful people. Cambodia is open and fundamentally it is a business-friendly country.”
In 2010, Ford opened the first car dealership in Siem Reap. The facility now has seven service bays. There are a total of four Ford outlets in Cambodia, with a new Ford sales and service outlet now under construction on Monivong Boulevard.
Ford’s ASEAN CFO Dave Johnson, in a speech at the Ford dealership in Siem Reap, said Asia Pacific and Africa will account for 60 to 70 per cent of Ford’s global growth over the next ten years.
“Ford will launch more than 50 new products and power trains in the Asia-Pacific by 2015.”
Ford’s Southeast Asia District Manager DJ Simpson said RMA and Ford had distributed more than 12,000 vehicles last year, worldwide.
“Since 1997 we have sold over 5,000 vehicles in the local market, and today command nearly 20 per cent of the industry’s new vehicle sales,”
Fords available in Cambodia include the Thai-built Ford Ranger pick-up, Ford Fiesta and the Cambodia-assembled Ford Everest SUV, as well as the North American-built F150 pick-up, Ford Explorer SUV, Ford Escape small SUV and Ford Flex, Simpson said.
Whitcraft described Ford as a major partner in RMA’s Cambodia operation.
“Cambodia sits at the heart of RMA as a group because its where a lot of our early growth started.”
In addition to the Ford brand of vehicles and trucks, RMA also has the agency for John Deere, the largest agricultural equipment company in the United States.
Whitcraft said the fast food business, which included between 400 and 500 Pizza Company outlets in Thailand, and a growing number in Cambodia, was a good long-term investment.
“Fast food is an area where we see growth. We only want to be involved with international brands and known brands. It’s a cookie-cutter business.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]