According to a recent report, the progress of Malaysia’s third national car took a huge leap forward last week, when it was put before the government’s new economic planning committee, with plans to have a model in production by 2022.
The National Development Council (NDC) sat for the first time towards the end of last month (November 2018) and discussed related proposals to kick-start a new carmaker, as well as the long-stagnant Cyberjaya township, envisioned two decades ago as Malaysia’s Silicon Valley.
Sources told a daily broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore that the new vehicle will sport the latest technology including autonomous navigation and a green propulsion system.
There are hopes that the car will be the catalyst to elevate Cyberjaya from its current state as a mere satellite township for administrative capital Putrajaya to become a technology hub.
Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister told reporters earlier this week that the government will share the prototype with the public soonest next year. He added that the main objective is to enhance the engineering capacity among Malaysians and to build a new ecosystem which is very deeply involved in innovation and technology.
It was noted that the proposal before the NDC – a new committee chaired by the country’s Prime Minister and comprising representatives from key economic ministries such as finance, economic affairs, entrepreneur development as well as the premier’s new economic adviser – targets to have a working unit ready anytime between 2020 and 2022.
An official source had informed the reporting paper that while the government has said it will not fund the new car, positioning it as a springboard to reviving Cyberjaya as a technological hub would include the possibility of incentives such as tax holidays and grants.
Cyberjaya was first launched in 1997, to spearhead the Multimedia Super Corridor and “enable Malaysians to leapfrog into the Information Age”, The Prime Minister had said then. The current Malaysian PM was formerly PM from 1981 to 2003.
But instead of high-tech innovations, the township located about 30 minutes south of Kuala Lumpur is largely home to university students and workers providing support and call centre services as businesses take advantage of cheap rent and Internet access as well as tax incentives.
There has been definite interest expressed by playes in the private sector towards producing a new Malaysian car, with at least 24 proposals received.
The Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister stated that while the size of the list has been reduced significantly, there is no final decision yet regarding which team will work on the ambitious project.
The idea of a new national marque was mooted by the Prime Minister just weeks after he returned to power following the May 2018 election. But it has been widely panned by critics who fear a repeat of Proton, the national car project which has cost taxpayers tens of billions of ringgit in tariff protections and bailouts since it was established in 1983, during the early years of the PM’s first tenure.
Loss-making Proton has gone from controlling three-quarters of the domestic car market in the early 1990s to selling just one in 10 new cars registered in Malaysia today. It had also fared poorly in the export market.
The automaker is now de facto controlled by a Chinese company and its fortunes could be revived after the Malaysian PM in August 2018 inked a deal in Beijing allowing the Malaysian make to be manufactured and sold in China.
Signs are also positive for this latest evolution of Proton, with the Chinese-company-developed X70 sport-utility vehicle receiving over 10,000 bookings in Malaysia between 8 September 27 October 2018, even before final prices are unveiled on 12 December 2018.