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Malaysia’s new car project will jumpstart hi-tech growth

According to a recent report, Malaysia has launched a new mass-market car project on Friday, as it looks to boost development and adoption of high technology in a renewed industrial push by the nation’s Prime Minister.

Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy is spurring the industry to embrace technology so as to increase productivity and counter growing external risks from an escalating trade war between the United States and China.

The new project will be spearheaded by a Malaysian firm that provides digital engineering services and consultancy. It will develop the car with technical assistance from a major Japanese motor company, according to Malaysia’s trade and industry minister.

While the project will be privately funded (with no government funding at all), the Government will support anything that is Malaysian made.

The domestic car industry has long been a sore point for Malaysians, who saw billions of ringgit in taxpayers’ funds spent to bail out the PM’s pet project before it was bought by a Chinese automaker.

It was noted that the new marque, which has yet to be named, would offer affordable vehicles loaded with advanced technology.

The first model, which is likely to be a C-segment sedan powered by either an advanced internal combustion engine or hybrid system, is expected to hit the road by March 2021, according to the Chief Executive of the company leading the project.

The company is still considering its fundraising options, but expects that it will need “a few hundred million” ringgit to meet its production goal, the firm’s Founder noted.

Domestically produced cars formed a key part of the Prime Minister’s strategy to turn Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy from an agricultural backwater to an industrialized nation during his first tenure as premier from 1981 to 2003.

The PM championed the new car project last year, on his return to power following an unprecedented election win by his opposition coalition in May.

An earlier report by OpenGov Asia from February 2019 noted that the progress of Malaysia’s third national car has been taking huge leaps. When the project was brought to the Government’s economic planning committee, plans to have a model in production by 2022 were created.

The National Development Council (NDC) 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 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.

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.

First launched in 1997, Cyberjaya was established to spearhead the Multimedia Super Corridor and “enable Malaysians to leapfrog into the Information Age”.

There has been definite interest expressed by players in the private sector towards producing a new Malaysian car, with at least 24 proposals received.

In February, the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister has said that there was no final decision yet regarding which team will work on the ambitious project.

However, in six months the Government has chosen the project’s lead firm and it will continue as planned.

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