Sat, Aug 10, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Malaysia launches car project to spur high-tech growth

Reuters, KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysia yesterday launched a new mass market car project, as it looks to boost development and adoption of high technology in a renewed industrial push by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

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

The new project, spearheaded by Malaysian firm DreamEDGE, is to be developed with technical assistance from Japan’s Daihatsu Motor Corp, Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking said.

“It’s privately funded, with no government funding at all,” Darell told a news conference. “We will support anything that is Malaysian made ... as long as no government money is expended or used.”

Daihatsu, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp, owns a stake in Perodua, Malaysia’s second homegrown automaker and its best-selling brand.

The domestic car industry has long been a sore point for Malaysians, who saw billions of ringgit in taxpayers’ funds spent to bail out Mahathir’s pet project, Proton, before it was bought by Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co (浙江吉利控股集團) in 2017.

Darell said 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, DreamEDGE founder and CEO Khairil Adri Adnan said.

The company is still considering its fundraising options, but expects that it would need “a few hundred million” ringgit to meet its production goal, Khairil said.

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

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

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