Why the delayed national automotive policy affects all Malaysians

Honda Motor has two car factories in Thailand.

For many Malaysians, the National Automotive Policy (NAP) may not be important, but if you are an automotive brand guardian and work in the Malaysian automotive eco-system, the NAP is probably the most important policy every year.

This policy affects your automotive landscape in more ways than you can understand.

Jobs are affected if the policy is not well thought out

Some years ago, Malaysia was the automotive leader in Asean. Recently Malaysia has taken third placing.

Thailand is first and Indonesia is second and by this time next year Vietnam could well be ahead of us.

This means lost jobs for Malaysians. Loss of foreign direct investment and a huge loss to the growth of our automotive industry.

How will car brands expand?

The 2019 NAP was supposed to be presented to the Malaysian automotive community in late 2018 to allow all car brands to plan their 2019 car launches and pricing.

Sadly it has been delayed numerous times by the Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

In previous years, the Malaysian Automotive Institute (MAI) has been a strong advisor to the previous MITI minister and his team.

However, MAI has recently been rebranded as MARii (Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute).

Name change notwithstanding, it continues to work with its partners to organise unsuccessful car shows in peninsular Malaysia and recently in Penampang, Sabah.

The Penampang show held in October was to make the MITI Minister happy as this is his home town.

Car brands were “forced” to participate and pay high “booth” prices. The Penampang car show had less than 2,000 visitors and most of the brands that participated were disappointed with the attendance.

The new Subaru is being assembled in Thailand.

This was shared with DSF by some of the participating car brands. Now, instead of being involved in the organisation of motor shows and a car of the year (COTY) awards ceremony due this month, MARii and MITI should be working to develop our slowing automotive industry.

They should instead start looking at working with global partners in the electric vehicle industry, like battery manufacturing and providing technology to start factories and automotive research facilities in Malaysia to further enhance our automotive market.

How Thailand and Indonesia benefit

This is why EV battery manufacturers are opening factories in Indonesia and Thailand these past 12 months.

Hyundai has just announced a brand new Asean vehicle assembly factory in Thailand instead of Malaysia.

Motor Image, the Singapore based Subaru brand guardian has opened an Asean assembly factory just outside Bangkok to start assembling the popular Forester SUV. The Subaru XV is currently still assembled in Malaysia.

This is why many car models are not being introduced in Malaysia and are instead seeing Thailand, Indonesia and even Vietnam launches ahead of us.

Many new car model launches have been put on hold in Malaysia

The Mitsubishi Xpander is still pending its launch in Malaysia whereas Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are already seeing strong sales.

Take the refreshed Honda Civic which was scheduled for launch months ago. DSF test drove this model in Bangkok three months ago and its Malaysian launch is still delayed till today.

The all new Honda City Turbo was just launched in Thailand two weeks ago and there is no confirmed Malaysian launch planned as yet.

Honda Motor has two car factories in Thailand producing a variety of models for domestic and export. It is Malaysia that should have had these two Honda factories.

With the retirement of key people in MoF, decisions are pending for the above mentioned car brands to move forward and MARii is not assisting enough as they are busy chasing exhibitors for their next motor show in the Klang Valley.

Soon, our automotive market will be not only behind Thailand and Indonesia but Vietnam will also be ahead of Malaysia in just a matter of a few years.

It is hoped that more Malaysians understand what is happening in our slowing car market. It affects jobs, investment and possible earned taxes from increased new car sales.

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