Ford Group Philippines may have made it certain to assure the public about the blue oval brand's future when they announced the closure of its assembly plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna by the end of 2012. However, they never mentioned what would happen to its current distribution of the Mazda brand.

A very reliable source has revealed to us that Malaysian conglomerate Berjaya Group will take over the distributorship of the Mazda brand in the Philippines. This development comes after Ford announced the downsizing of its operations in the country. Berjaya which owns 80% of BerMaz Motor Sdn Bhd, a joint venture with Mazda Motor Corporation currently distributes Mazda vehicles for the Malaysian market. Since 2011, Berjaya assembles the Mazda3 in Malaysia at a plant in Kulim owned by Inokom Corp., a company where Berjaya has a 15% stake in. The company also announced this year of future assembly of the CX-5 crossover in Malaysia.

Mazda has been looking to strengthen its presence in the ASEAN region for vehicle assembly and distribution after Ford reduced its stake in the Japanese automaker in late 2010. This confirms rumors of Mazda eyeing a partnership with Berjaya after Mazda officials visited Malaysia in April to discuss business with Berjaya.

Berjaya Group

Apart from Mazda, the Berjaya Group also distributes the Aston Martin, Skoda, Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles, Chana, Brilliance, and Joylong in Malaysia. The conglomerate also has interests in property, resorts, gaming, hotels, fast food, retail and IT industries.

"The Philippines has all the ingredients for success. We want to invest in a country with the right population so that there is a big consumer base. The Philippines is a big customer base," said Berjaya Corporation founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan earlier this month as quoted by the New Straits Times.

Berjaya was granted a car assembly license from the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in October 2010. This license under the 2010 National Automotive Policy (NAP) however only allows them to assemble hybrid and electric vehicles, commercial vehicles, and luxury passenger vehicles with an engine capacity of at least 1800cc and minimum on-road price of RM150,000 in Malaysia. The license was issued with a proposed 40.5-hectare plant to be built in Bukit Tagar, Selangor.

While no exact details have been revealed regarding the extent of the partnership, our source tells us that the Berjaya group will soon announce details and plans for their new Mazda distributorship in the Philippines.

Currently, Mazda Philippines imports the Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-5, and CX-9 from Japan. ASEAN produced Mazda3 and CX-5 would significantly reduce prices and improve the competitiveness of the models due to import duty exemptions from the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.