LAST week, the International Trade and Industry Minister announced the company that will anchor the national car project.
DreamEDGE Sdn Bhd was appointed as the anchor company, and will receive support from Daihatsu Motor Corp in Japan to develop an advanced technology vehicle that can maintain a long term relevance, given the fast changing automotive and mobility ecosystem.
There has been substantial coverage, dialogue and polemics since the announcement. While some are relevant to the technical direction of the project, others took the discussion sideways to address administrative issues.
Moving forward, let me first explain the criteria to decide the anchor for national car, and then explain why this criteria makes the national car unique.
The facts are straightforward — the new national car is expected to be a B+ segment car, and will be designed, built and equipped with advanced technology and will be affordable to Malaysians.
As the project would be fully funded by the private sector, the details of the project are expected to be revealed in due time based on the anchor company’s business plan.
However, what makes a national car, national?
First and foremost, a national car must have a majority equity that is Malaysian, for obvious reasons.
Second, is that there must a high localisation rate, with at least 75 per cent of parts used in the vehicle supplied via a local value chain.
Third, the talent working within the company must be at least 98 per cent Malaysian, to ensure meaningful participation in the local automotive ecosystem.
Fourth, the car must be aligned with the definition of Next Generation Vehicles (NxGV). In simple terms, NxGVs are vehicles that use advanced powertrains (Energy-efficient ICE, hybrids, electric vehicles, etc) combined with technology related to autonomous or automated connected vehicles.
These vehicles are categorised by its five levels of autonomy, and the national car is expected to achieve higher levels over a specified period.
Fifth, the project must demonstrate a high percentage of research and development for all its parts and components. The only exception would be the vehicle platform, the standard practice for global original equipment manufacturers to share to ensure economy of scale.
Finally, the national car must be fully funded by the private sector to ensure a balance between successful business case and furthering the national industrialisation agenda.
I believe there is no disagreement that Malaysia needs a catalyst to spur the next “S-curve” to drive Malaysia through the phase of industrialisation
It is very clear that in order to achieve meaningful participation of Malaysian businesses and talent in advanced technology, we must take the bold, often unpopular steps in creating the new national car.
The criteria mentioned above clearly defines the government ambition to meet the people’s aspirations, and the new national car project is the best balance to achieve our goals.
In the meantime, the most damaging thing is when meaningful dialogue and opinions are drowned out by misrepresentation, cynicism, and misdirection of the real issues.
I implore Malaysia to keep the discussion on the national car going but ensure the dialogue reflects who we truly are: a nation geared for technological success.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).