KUALA LUMPUR: From July 1 next year, the Transport Ministry has made it mandatory for all new car models produced by national carmakers Proton and Perodua to have airbags and rear seat belts.
This single measure will make Malaysian produced cars on par with that of other manufacturers in the region, Road Transport Department (JPJ) director-general Datuk Emran Kadir said.
With the rising number of deaths from motor accidents, experts have called for more car safety features but manufacturers claim that Malaysians were not willing to pay extra for them.
JPJ statistics reveal that 6,282 people died from road accidents in 2003 compared to 5,891 the previous year. There have already been 4,157 deaths in the first eight months of this year.
In Malaysia, there are 4.9 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles, higher than in developed countries such as Japan (2.8), Singapore (2.8) and New Zealand (1.4) but lower than in developing countries such as Thailand (6) and Indonesia (9.1), according to Asian Development Bank statistics.
Some safety features such as the ABS and Anti-Skidding System can reduce the probability of an accident but it cant compensate for recklessness or careless behaviour of the driver, said Emran.
When asked to comment on the government's decision, Perodua Manufacturing Sdn Bhd deputy general manager (product marketing department) Zaharin Husin said it was a good move. It should not be just Proton and Perodua but all cars introduced into Malaysia, including imported cars and those produced by Naza and Inokom.
The Government needs to do its part to ease the cost for manufacturers, he added, suggesting that incentives should include rebates for both carmakers and customers.
Malaysian Automotive Association president Aishah Ahmad said that in the mid 1990s, some local auto industry players had fitted safety features into their cars.
We thought we would be the first, but we were priced out, she recalled, adding that the safety features cost between RM2,000 and RM3,000 each.
The customers did not value the safety features. When the cost went up, our sales, volume and market share were affected. Bernama