He sees the Chevy Colorado pickup accounting for about 50% of sales here, SUVs making up slightly less than a third and sedans accounting for the rest. Getting out of the block quickly depends on a broad and targeted product mix.

“We have a strong range of products that are well-suited for Laos customers, ranging from the Spark and Sail in the small-car segment to the all-new Colorado in the pickup segment,” Jaising says. “We are also looking at the prospect of bringing the Trailblazer to Laos to add some excitement to the popular 4x4 SUV segment.”

Maningnom’s 2013 sales target is 1,100 units for the current product lineup, excluding future launches that will come thick and fast, Kongwatthanasupa reveals.

“We may have incremental products (this year) such as the Trailblazer, Sonic and Malibu, and when included with current products, we will cover all market segments.”

Jaising says the Malibu is being considered for both Laos and the Philippines, but no decision has been made yet. If approved, the sedan will arrive completely built up from Korea.

Kongwatthanasupa is upbeat about future products, based on the instant reception of current models since their launch here.

GM is satisfied its cars will suit Laotian roads and conditions. “The Laos market is quite similar to the Thai market except for the fact that it is a left-hand-drive market,” says Roberto Rempel, GM global vehicle chief engineer-midsize trucks. However, the (LHD) setup exists in other countries in the region as well.

“Before launching a product, we rigorously test the vehicle in varying weather conditions and setups like high and low altitudes (and) lower and higher temperatures, which are specific to that region,’ he says.  “We are confident that these tests cover a complete expanse of all situations that the Laos customer would encounter.”

Rempel says there is no homologation requirement for Laos, and that GM’s key issue here is to ensure its vehicles match local fuel standards. GM's extensive fuel database allows the engineering team to understand a vehicle’s performance and emissions with a certain type of fuel available in a region.

In terms of marketing, Manignom Group is spending big to build brand awareness. The marketing budget for 2012 was LAK3.1 trilllion ($400,000) and is expected to rise 40% or 50% this year.

By any stretch, that is a robust spend. Says Kongwatthanasupa, “Our budget (was) quite high in the first year and will continue for another two years, because we came to market later than other major players.”