Malaysia is making a big push into developing “disruptive technology-driven” vehicles for global markets, with its maiden model expected to hit the market in two years’ time.
The model is under the new national car project (NNCP) mooted by Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
Its prototype is expected to be rolled out early next year, followed by the real car itself for consumers by 2020, said the Malaysian Industry-Goverment Group for High Technology (MIGHT) president and chief executive officer Datuk Dr. Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman.
The government was identifying investors and co-developers for the NNCP, and this was expected to be finalised by year-end, he added.
“This new car will use 100 per cent disruptive technology and not follow conventional car manufacturing (methods),” Mohd Yusoff said at a media briefing on NNCP here yesterday.
A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry.
“This new platform needs to be developed by a country like Malaysia, which has all the ingredients that can master this technology. We have the raw materials and experience. There is no reason why we shouldn’t build this new car,” Mohd Yusoff said.
He said it was important for the country to develop and nurture vendors and inspire young people with disruptive technologies, after decades of involvement in the automotive sector.
“We are the top nine high-tech manufacturing exporters in the world in terms of capacity and capability. We have companies that can contribute technology and components of the car such as Composites Technology Research Malaysia Sdn Bhd (CTRM) and Silterra Malaysia Sdn Bhd,” he added.
Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof, meanwhile, said the NNCP would be privately funded, leveraging on existing automotive components suppliers in the country.
He said the government had shortlisted a few partners, while looking at the best platform to use and combined with Malaysian technology (components suppliers and technology makers).
“We are refining the prototype and later explore what kind of series (car category) we are going to have. We have to be sizeable about it and measure what we can contribute in terms of local content,” he said.
He said the NNCP would revitalise the national automotive industry and support the parts and components sector that could drive small and medium enterprises.
“The content from Malaysian resources will be maximised to the fullest. We had discussed with Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to build our automotive industry after Proton had been acquired by China’s Geely.
“We wanted to rebuild the capability with existing skills and technology to make the industry competitive. We are ready to build cars now,” he said.
Mohd Redzuan added that it would not be an issue for the country to have a new national car, citing that the administration was looking at private initiative or private participation.
“The current technology in the market is not that expensive to come up with a prototype. There are over 20 carmakers in this country. We have the skills and capabilities to help carmakers to produce cars,” he said.
With a complete ecosystem, Mohd Redzuan said the government can empower the NNCP with the private sectors participation, supported by various ministries and government agencies.
“We are looking at technology including energy efficient vehicle or full electric vehicle. We try to refine our approach at what stage we should offer,” he said.
Mohd Yusoff said CTRM and Silterra can not only build the outer shell of the car and electronics components but also invest in the car development.
“We need agencies and ministries help to create an ecosystem for them to further develop. They may need training and other competencies,” he said.
Mohd Yusoff said MIGHT had been involved in automotive development since 1994 to support Malaysia’s Formula One involvement, infusing the technology from the most advanced structure to the conventional car manufacturing.
“We had developed an engine with Petronas and Sauber at one time. This had been licensed out to Proton and China. There are lotd of competencies that have been built throughout the years that can actually be used for this new platform – it can be a saloon, SUV and MPV,” he said.
Mohd Yusoff said the NNCP would be developed based on the local market demand.
“Hence, we need to know what kind of cars Malaysians want to drive. We are not starting from zero. We will have a complete ecosystem and pull all relevant parties to work as a team for this project,” he said.
Mohd Redzuan said the capital to develop the NNCP would be dependent on what platform it uses, technology, and feedbacks from the market, particularly the younger generation.
“For a start, we will use the existing infrastructure to assemble the first batch of the car. We are not overly ambitious to have our production line. We have to do it differently where the investments are capped minimum so that it makes sense.
“We don’t want to invest a billion dollar plant just because we want to develop a new national car. There always existing assembly facilities that we can use (contract manufacturing) to produce the car,” he said.