Third national car project aims to integrate auto sector


Ong (left) and Munir Majid at the briefing yesterday. - YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

Ong (left) and Munir Majid at the briefing yesterday. - YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The development of the third national car is not for the sake of adding another brand besides Proton and Perodua. The aim is for the integration of the automotive sector to make Malaysia the vendor for industry players in Asean.

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said the automotive sector in Malaysia was not just about national cars and it should be viewed beyond the sectorial perspective.

“Looking at the entire market in Malaysia, most of the popular cars are assembled here, including foreign makes like Toyota and Honda.

“Many assembly activities are now localised and this is important because it’s an indication of how a different model has been undertaken by Malaysia to grow the automotive sector,” he said during an exclusive dialogue session by the CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) on the Asean Integration Outlook 2019 yesterday.

Malaysia has various industry players from Europe, Japan and Korea, which differs from Thailand that has a lot of Japanese investments with a well-integrated supply chain.

This was also one of the reasons why Geely chose to invest in Proton because Thailand was seen as a base for Japanese manufacturers, while the dominance of Japanese players in Malaysia was not that apparent.

Proton, which has been given the exclusive rights to market and sell three models from Geely, has spurred the local industries in the midst of the localisation process.

“There may be some cost involved as these vendors get up to speed to be as competitive as their Chinese counterparts.

“Once they get used to they way the Chinese auto players operate, they will be able to use that experience not just to help Proton to expand their exports to South-East Asia but to penetrate other markets as well,” Dr Ong said, adding that he is quite bullish about this.

Meanwhile, Dr Ong also stressed that whatever that will be developed for the third national car project will be on a prototype basis with some existing seed money and the government is not in a position to commit a lot of finances for the project.

It will be the prerogative of the private sector to take on the project and expand it if there are interested parties.

The project is currently being handled by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) under the Prime Minister’s Department.

“Where Miti comes in is we coordinate with MIGHT in terms of the National Automative Policy (NAP) so we can see how the third national car fits into the national automotive sector,” he said.

Dr Ong also clarified that the third national car will not be a flying car, following misconceptions that the two are related projects.

On Feb 26, Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Redzuan Md Yusof said Malaysia’s first flying car is expected to be unveiled this year.

“The third national car as far as I know, will not be a flying car. I haven’t see the prototype and I’m not privy to the details of what this car would be.

“It’s likely that the flying car will not be something that will be able to be produced and sold at commercial mass basis,” he said.

On another matter, Dr Ong said Malaysia is cautiously optimistic to have the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) concluded this year.

Participating countries were still deliberating the level of trade liberalisation.

“Whenever China and India sits in the same room, you can anticipate that there will be disagreements so we are slowly trying to iron them out,” he said, adding that participating countries are also waiting for the outcome of India’s general election to see the whether there would be a new administration and the position it will take on RCEP.

On the ratification of CPTPP, Dr Ong said Malaysia will take into account how investors will view and position Malaysia in the long term before deciding. The top three trading powerhouses in Asean - Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand - have either ratified it or expressed their interest.

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