AHTV poised to transform Tanjung Malim into global automotive hub

TANJUNG MALIM: Once dubbed a ghost town, Tanjung Malim, located in the southern part of Perak and bordering Selangor, and now known as an Education Town, is set to emerge as a global automotive hub.

The strong belief in Tanjung Malim's potential to achieve the status of ‘Motor City Detroit’ and Wolfsburg in Germany aligns with the development of the Automotive High Technology Valley (AHTV) Project, which includes plans to produce new energy vehicles (NEVs).

In fact, the project is also reported to expand to include talent development, research and development (R&D), and urbanisation.

"Realistic even though it seems distant," said Assoc Prof Dr Yazid Saleh, a lecturer from the Department of Geography and Environment, Faculty of Human Sciences, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), when sharing his views with Bernama on the transformation of Tanjung Malim's landscape into the nation's leading automotive hub and economic centre.

According to him, the development of Tanjung Malim as the nation's automotive hub will be driven by two major factors: the relocation of Proton Holdings Berhad (Proton) factory operations from Shah Alam by 2027 and the AHTV, a RM40bil joint venture between China’s auto giant Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd (Geely) and DRB-HICOM Berhad.

"Following Proton’s relocation to Tanjung Malim, according to Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Saarani Mohamad, a total of 3,000 Proton workers had been transferred from Shah Alam to Tanjung Malim, with the number expected to increase to 10,000 workers by 2027.

"By 2027, a total of 50,000 people, including Proton workers and their families are expected to be relocated from Shah Alam to the Proton City area.

"The relocation will also attract existing and new Proton vendors to Proton City,” he told Bernama recently.

For the record, Proton City was established circa 1990 and is located between the towns of Tanjung Malim and Slim River. Car production at the factory was supposed to start in 1998 but was postponed due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, with factory operations only beginning around November 2003.

Elaborating on AHTV, Yazid said the project explores new areas of collaboration, including new generation car manufacturing through a project covering an area of 404.69 hectares, complementing previous national planning such as the National Physical Plan (2005).

"Tanjung Malim-Proton City is categorised as a city with its own unique characteristics under the 'Special Industrial City' category along with Peramu (Automobile) and Kulim (Hitech Industries).

"This is detailed through the Perak State Structure Plan (2001-2020), which designates Proton City - Tanjung Malim - Behrang as the state's Silicon Valley (in the context of the automotive industry). It also ranks as a Sub-Regional Centre of the state.

"Again, the emphasis on Tanjung Malim as an automotive city is reflected in the Perak State Structure Plan 2040 through the NCER Regional Strategic Growth Sector, where one of its strategies is to develop Tanjung Malim as a leading automotive centre in Southeast Asia," he said.

He explained that according to the latest plans, Proton and Geely will produce EVs (electric vehicles), hence drawing more EV vendors to Tanjung Malim due to this new technology.

"Geely is also said to be interested in setting up a university to train and develop young talents in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and automotive technology.

"If all goes smoothly, this will create tens of thousands of job opportunities for local youth and contribute to the development of Tanjung Malim in particular, through the chain of ‘workers- salary-spending-economy-development," he said.

Commenting on the challenges faced in the Proton City project, Yazid said Proton, as Malaysia's first car manufacturer (an endeavour that dated back in 1984), recorded high profits until 2010 due to the lack of competition and the high import automotive policy (import tax) imposed.

"However, by AFTA 2010, the National Automotive Policy was amended, leading to the liberalisation of car prices in Malaysia.

"Inefficient policy management and the previous government’s decision to open the domestic market to all cars without giving Proton a chance to enter foreign markets made it difficult for Proton to compete with major automotive companies from other countries.

He added that a significant drawback was that Proton Tanjung Malim only assembled a few models in the past, namely Gen 2, Persona, and Preve (less popular models).

However, Yazid said that the latest investment developments indicate Tanjung Malim is on the path to development, albeit at a slow pace.

"Four main indicators can explain this situation. First, population growth based on the 2010 census which showed an increase ten years later (2020), from 50,575 to 76,688 people.

"Second is Employment Changes; the number of employees in the manufacturing sector grew at only 6.7 per cent in 1980, with a 7.4 per cent growth in 1991; it rose further to 10.6 per cent and 18.5 per cent in 2000 and 2010 respectively. The number is expected to rise to 20 to 21 per cent by 2020,” he said.

Commenting further, he said the services sector in 1980 only contributed 5.7 per cent, but in 2000, it increased to 15.5 per cent, 17.3 per cent in 2010, and an estimated 18 to 19 per cent by 2020.

"The next indicator is land use changes. Although 51 per cent of the Muallim District is agricultural, land use has since changed significantly with the focus on the development of Tanjung Malim-Proton City. Commercial and residential areas have sprouted, replacing agricultural land with industrial land being primarily utilised for Proton City.

"Fourth, changes in the supply of goods and services; small towns usually offer basic goods for the population and the agricultural sector, but in Tanjung Malim, the situation is different. Recently, high-level goods and services have started to make their presence here," he said.

UPSI's role in Tanjung Malim's development

"Without a doubt, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) plays a crucial role in boosting the development of Tanjung Malim, hence shedding the district’s ‘ghost town’ image.

"It is unfair to call Tanjung Malim a 'ghost town' because a ghost town is a town that has lost its function and population.

"If in Perak, ghost towns are towns that were initially tin mining areas like Temoh, Chenderiang, and Sungai Lembing in Pahang, among others.

"It’s just that Tanjung Malim's development is relatively slow and not drastic," he said, adding that UPSI in this context has brought about fundamental changes in Tanjung Malim's economy from primary (the main) to services.

He explained that this was brought about through the workers and students leading to a multiplier effect that eventually brought many changes in terms of physical offerings and services to Tanjung Malim.

"Overall, the presence of many UPSI students and staff accelerates Tanjung Malim's population and economic growth.

"UPSI generates income from outside the area because a significant portion of the salaries received by workers is sourced from the federal government," he said.

According to him, students also play a role in bringing in income from outside the area, mainly through their education loans.

If a student receives assistance from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), the loan amount received by each student (before deducting tuition fees) for each semester over eight semesters at UPSI is approximately RM3,500 per semester.

UPSI’s existence also helps propel the growth of ancillary sectors such as catering, cleaning, and local employment.

"In terms of spending contributions, take a simple calculation, if a UPSI student spends RM10 a day for daily expenses x 30 days = RM300, with 21,558 Bachelor’s Degree students and 2,424 diploma students, totalling 23,682 students, round it up to 23,000, so RM300 x 23,000 = RM6.9mil a month spent in Tanjong Malim (excluding staff), hence UPSI provides spin-offs for the supply of goods and services in Tanjung Malim," he said.

Proton needs to go global and focus on development

However, he said, in line with the investments made, Proton itself needs to have its future plans, including preparing itself for the global stage (becoming a world brand).

Meanwhile, UPSI lecturer from the Department of Malaysian Studies, Faculty of Human Sciences Muhammad Nadzir Ibrahim believes that Proton's strategy to become one of the top three automotive companies in Asean by 2027, with plans to re-enter two of the region's largest markets, Indonesia and Thailand, is excellent and forms the basis for this aspiration.

"If this succeeds, the goal will be achieved, and Proton itself must be prepared to produce products that can compete internationally," he said.

Commenting on Tanjung Malim's development plans, Nadzir believes the focus should be on providing infrastructure for the community and other facilities such as affordable housing and new schools, which need to be expedited from now.

Additionally, local authority services need to be improved and environmental issues such as waste, drains, and grass should not be taken lightly.

"Although current dissatisfaction with services may be low, preparation is crucial because as the population grows, so will their demand.

"All these play a role in supporting the needs and providing comfort to the expected growing population.

"Currently, small urbanisation issues such as flash floods and river pollution have begun to be detected, and related parties need to be prepared to address these issues," he said.

He added that there are many more special features of Tanjung Malim that can be developed as eco-tourism, such as the UPSI Adventure Park, Ujana Muallim, and Sungai Bil.- Bernama

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