Business Commentary

Concerns over third national car project as deadline draws near

Ahirul Ahirudin
Written by Ahirul Ahirudin

March 27, 2019

ONLY four days left before the end of this year’s first quarter and there is still no official announcement on who will lead the third national car project, let alone an official reveal of its prototype as promised by that deadline.

As it is, the most recent development was a report by prominent automotive news portal suggesting that two Japanese automakers would spearhead the project.

If true, that contradicts the statement by Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) chief executive officer Datuk Yusoff Sulaiman, who said the project will source partners within Malaysia.

“We want to make sure this car is a Malaysian car and will thus look within Malaysia for partners,” said Yusoff in October last year.

Also peculiar was the fact that Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof had insisted that the new national car will be rolled out on the streets as early as 2020.

This leaves only one year from now, and still there is no announcement of the official partners, let alone a prototype.

So, when are they going to do the finalised product design, engineering, manufacturing and vehicle testing?

It is widely known in the automotive industry that it normally takes more than a few years to develop a car, and at least another year to do the relevant testing.

Therefore, is our technology so advanced that we can produce a car in less than two years?

Prominent automotive and product design specialist Veejay Gahir said in a discussion video that the time needed to design a car varies, but it typically ranges between two and five years.

“So, to get it done within two years is probably the minimal amount of time. I have heard of programmes that have been done in less than that but they had been really compressed and used a lot of carryover components.” he said.

“For a typical production vehicle, it is quite certain that you’re looking from between two and four years,” Veejay added in the in-depth discussion video on how long it takes for a car to get from the concept phase to the sales floor.

Redzuan amazingly seemed to think otherwise and had told the media at MiGHT headquarters in October last year that with current technologies, it would take only a single push of a button to design a brand new car.

He also claimed that a new national carmaker means that it has no existing “baggage to lug around” and is not bound by the traditional limitations that other carmakers have, making it possible to develop the car in such a short time.

Of course, if time and resources are an issue, they could always rebadge like how Proton did with the X70, but if it’s a rebadge, what’s the point of having a third national car?

Proton could easily rebadge another Geely model and Perodua has been doing that for years with its Daihatsu donor.

These are concerns shared by many taxpayers since there are chances that their money will be used for this project.

While proponents of the project claimed that it will be fully funded by the private sector, just five months ago, the government approved a whopping RM20 million research and development grant for the car’s prototype.

Who’s to say that this will be the last time taxpayers’ money is used for the project? And what guarantee the project will be successful, especially now that 2020 is just around the corner?  Will the project be rushed?



About the author

Ahirul Ahirudin

Ahirul Ahirudin