Thursday, 27 July 2017

A firsthand account of a car accident

One of Malaysia Automotive Institute’s major roles is to enhance awareness about vehicle safety and consumer awareness on safe driving behaviour. In this column, I’ve written extensively on such important.
Last week’s article addressed the issue of safety awareness at length. Little did I expect that a few days after its publication, I would experience my words first hand.
My account started last Saturday morning, part of my weekly routine where I strive to bring balance between being a father and husband and my responsibities in public service, which have often spilled into the weekend.
I was driving to my usual Saturday morning discussions sessions, which are typically held in Kota Kemuning – a sleepy township with lush greenery that I have grown accustomed to.
My youngest daughter was strapped to the backseat. She tries to follow me whenever she can, but I am quite certain it is not because she enjoys delving to the issues plaguing the automotive industry.
If it’s true that danger lurks in every corner, then in this instance it came literally - in the form of a motorist that was too much of a hurry to notice the stop sign.
Perhaps it was an obscure stop sign, or an act of blind imitation. As I was approaching the four way junction I noticed a car speeding across it. By the time I was at the junction, the blurred shape of another vehicle, this time a sport utility vehicle (SUV), caught the corner of my eye. Impact was imminent, and my reflexes took over and braced for impact.
The next few moments were hazy, I found myself still in the seat of the Proton Perdana, which was now pointed in the opposite direction, from where I came.
The SUV was straddled on a curb next to me, the driver obviously still in shock.
The side airbag had deployed next to me, and as I walked out I saw the damage to the Perdana. The car took a direct impact on the right side of the car, where the C-pillar meets the rear door panel lip and the rear tyre.
I thank the Almighty, as all of us – my daughter, the other driver and myself escaped with minor bruises.
Throughout my entire career, I’ve known the importance of vehicle safety – the design and construction of vehicles must be efficient at preventing accidents, and most importantly, minimize injury when they occur.
Here’s the thing – as I walked out to inspect my car, my first reaction was that the damage to the vehicle didn’t look as bad as the shock I felt during impact. For a moment, I thought I was over-exaggerating the hit, but it then occurred to me that I was driving a car with a modern structure and side airbags.
The car’s design protected me and my daughter from injury, which most likely would have been worse if we were driving an older model with inferior safety features.
I’ll leave it at that. For once in the span of this column, I don’t need to elaborate on the importance of vehicle safety. This incident speaks for itself.
I would, however, like to close by thanking all those who assisted me and my daughter. Special thanks goes out to the police, who responded efficiently, clearly and professionally to my post-incident call.
A malay proverb, roughly translates to “we can only plan, but God decides”.
In this case, I would say that both plan and decision was in favour of me and my family, and for that I am grateful.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

ROAD SAFETY - Have you played your rule as a consumer?

Let’s start with a question – do you find your car headrests to be comfortable?
Contrary to popular belief, headrests were never designed for resting our heads while driving. The term “headrest” is actually short for “head restraint”, which is designed to protect the driver from whiplash, a damaging consequence of rear collisions that cause injury to the neck and spine during impact.
The first recorded automobile fatality took place in 1869. Unfortunately, advances in vehicle safety took almost half a century to come to fruition through the introduction of hydraulic brake systems in 1922.
Vehicle testing was introduced by General Motors in 1934, leading to more advances in vehicle safety, including the World Forum for the Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations in 1958.
It was only until the 1960s where seatbelts became mandatory, and head restraints for front seats became an optional accessory. It took more than a century after the first recorded vehicle fatality before rear seat belts became mandatory in vehicles.
We are fortunate that stricter regulations exist today. However, one must ponder why it had taken so long for safety features to be made standard equipment – something that would have saved countless lives.
It would, however, be idealistic to simply implement regulations. As an implementer of government policies, as well as a former member of the automotive industry, I’d like to offer my perspective on this issue.
as duty obliges me to ensure decisions balance the needs of all stakeholders, which unfortunately, are often common yet has their own nuanced conflicts.
One of the major issues behind vehicle safety regulation is the generation of enough public awareness regarding a safety concern.
For example, regulations on mandatory child seats may seem common sense to many, but at the ground level, it poses a cost factor that is challenging for the government to force on the public.
A lack of consumer awareness often drives down demand, causing market prices for certified child seats to rise, and are only purchased by the select few who have a good understanding of passive vehicle safety. It is for this reason child seat prices are cheaper in countries where public awareness is present.

It is also unfortunate that public clamour for enforcement usually takes place during widespread coverage of a recent incident, but is often short lived. This provides little room for public awareness campaigns to receive the limelight it deserves.
As mentioned above, advances in vehicle safety are often initiatives of regulators and car makers themselves.
Due to high competition within the market, car makers such as Volvo have branded their company philosophy through pioneering safety – the most popular example being the invention of the three point seat belt seen in all cars today.
However, the faster turnaround of new vehicle safety features is often marred by lukewarm consumer response, causing delays in reaching the final production line.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. The industry plauers and government need the help of each and every one of us to make vehicle safety a priority.
Time is also of the essence. Vehicle technology is growing in complexity, especially in advanced countries with significantly higher awareness levels.
Awareness of environmental issues, such as battery disposal, will come into play, adding the burden of stricter environment policies to the already problematic safety awareness within our borders.
I therefore urge and implore all of us to play our part. For those who are aware, spread the information – it has never been easier to share good safety awareness.
To my fellow Malaysians, get to know about vehicle safety and how it affects us, our families and those around us.
We all truly have to play our role.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

SOCIETAL CHANGE - Critical thinking key to achieving advance status

If we read the headlines such as the above with a preconceived notion, then perhaps this article is timely written. To set the record straight, this article was neither inspired by liberal notions of moral conduct, or absolute freedom of thought.
There was a time when conversing with another person remotely through a video screen was reserved for the imagination of Hollywood science fiction producers – something that was only possible on the USS Enterprise a thousand years from now.
Little did we expect such technology to emerge in merely a few decades ahead of the first Star Trek series. These days, video calls are something we almost take for granted.
I believe one of main reasons why technology has expanded at such an exponential rate is that these very advances in communication are self-serving – they create the expansion of knowledge at the same exponential rate as the growth in technology.
It is for this very reason that responsible governments push hard to enable fast access to online information. Is it undeniably a mammoth task and requires strategic access placement while also balancing commercial viability.
Unfortunately, that is just the first step.
The social classes of yesteryear may have been the warrior versus the farmer, or the ruling elite standing over the general populace. In the modern democratic society, the separation is now between the inventor and consumer.
Those who invent emerge victorious to those who consume. The overarching dominance of companies such as Facebook and Amazon, created during the rise of the information age, suggests that great power is wielded by those who create need for the consumer.
This should be celebrated – with the caveat that a critical and open minded society exists to ensure positive progress.
Today, with the massive influx of opinions, ideologies and debate, the personal removal of prejudice becomes ever more important.
It is said that a falsehood, if repeated enough times, can become truth.  They have the power to destroy great ideas, efforts and causes. Such destruction retards progress, and turns heroes into villains.
While it is unrealistic to make everyone an inventor, it is important for  society, which are mostly consumers, to gain knowledge and perspective of the ideas they consume. The best judgements are made by those who, without bias, are well read on all perspectives presented, and exercise fairness in judgment.
For example, to produce the fastest car, one must also have many skilled drivers in his consumer base. The consumers sell the product - because they are the best users of the product. Nobody would believe a “fast” car that has never been driven fast.
It is the same with knowledge. If a knowledgeable society is needed to be an advanced nation, the readers of knowledge must be the best consumers of information – they need to separate fact from fiction, and give credit where credit is due.
Only then will the true inventors emerge, bringing even more benefit to the society.
This starts with critical thinking and an open mind, especially in an age where separating truth from fiction is at its most difficult.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

MOTOR INSURANCE LIBERALISATION - Major step towards developed nation status

A former world leader was once quoted as saying that "success will go to those companies and countries which are swift to adapt, slow to complain, open and willing to change. The task of modern governments is to ensure that our country can rise to this challenge".
Malaysia has since independence been on its path towards developing a nation and society that can compete and thrive at the global level. It is evident that in a global capitalistic economy, liberalisation is a philosophy that we too, as a nation, must follow suit to reach the economic levels we desire.
At the time of our independent, it was common policy for the administration to develop policies suited for an economy that was still in its infancy. The policies of the day favoured restriction of global companies from overpowering  budding businesses.
While protectionism allowed growth and opportunities for new entrepreneurs, it also created long-term effects of complacency due to lack of competition.
Most importantly, overarching government control also allowed very little room for creativity and innovation, as regulations often kept business operations revolving around the same procedures and bureaucratic practise for long periods of time. Furthermore, customers also suffered from a lack of quality choices, while our participation in the global economy was also stifled due to our own restrictions, providing local businesses with less room for firther expansion.
The liberalisation of such economic activities would then balance out the needs of all stakeholder, through competition that benefits more efficient businesses and allowa the best choices for the consumers.
After more than three decades of protectionism, the government has taken a bold step in outlining a clear plan to bring Malaysia through the next important step - the liberalisation of not just our commodity markets but also in areas of technology.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP2014) is one of the major testaments to sucha paradigm shift - developing localvalue and talent with high income activities, with gradual liberalisation in mind.
While the Proton-Geely deal, which received massive media coverage during the festive season, is one product of such shift in conducting business, we have witnessed another major milestone through the liberalisation of motor insurance in Malaysia, beginning July 1.
While details of the liberalisation model have been widely covered in the news, for me the most importantaspect is that consumers tend to benefit, in particular those who have better driving behaviour and safety records. The policy would lead to saferdriver habits and also driving conditions for motorists and those around them, which is inline with the NAP 2014 in principle and spirit.
However, Iwould also like to emphasise that any shift in policy will need time for adjustment. New things are not sapred from imperfection, and will naturally require tweaks and changes over time to acommodqate the reqalities on the ground. Letus allow such due process, because the most important step has taken place.
Remember, the liberalised model above all places power in the handsof consumers - so let your feedback beheard, so business can thrive and serve the nation in the best form and will continue to improve as time goes by.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Monday, 3 July 2017

RAYA REFLECTIONS - Understanding the deeper meaning of Aidilfitri

IT is that time of the year again, where we end the fasting month and celebrate our self-restraint against vice and weakness. For those who are fortunate, it is also that time where we get that rare chance to leave the hustle and bustle of our busy schedules and return to our roots.
Personally for me, this return home bears a significance beyond the familiar gathering. It is an annual opportunity to rekindle our ties with those who are close to our hearts, in which for various reasons, we rarely find chances to meet.
During this festive season, we will meet those whom not only surrounded us during our growth, but also influenced our thinking, values and culture and made us who we are today.
When seen from this perspective, the forgiveness we give and receive brings a deeper meaning to the celebration of Eid. It equates to a blessing from all those who have contributed to our well-being.
Forgiveness, and the act of forgiving, opens the path to self-improvement. As the saying goes - a problem can only be solved when the problem is acknowledged. In order for forgiveness to take place, one must first admit to requiring forgineness.
The act of visiting family and friends during the month of Syawal also holds meaning beyond mere tradition.
We usually take this opportunity to catch up with those whom we seldom meet, those outside our scheduled routines, so much so that it would be unlikely that these personal networks are maintained if the festive season did not take place.
Such is the power of the festive month - it keeps our bonds of family and friendship. The interactions we have serve as updates, which in turn add to our knowledge and experience through the act of sharing.
As we converse and catch up with old friends, little do we realise we are actually learning new things from those outside our common circle.
Most importantly, Aidilfitri is meant as a joyful day. As Malaysians, we are blessed and privileged to have celebrated the month of Syawal in peace and harmony. However, let us not forget that there are those less fortunate, and carrying out their Raya prayer in poverty, famine, persecution or war.
Therefore, let us be mindful of the factors that make up the peace and harmony and protect them to celebrate Hari Raya with joy and happiness.
Lastly, for many of us, the Raya holidays is the longest break we will have in any given year. While it is an opportunity to take our minds of work and spend time with our relatives and friends, it is also an opportunity to reset and rejuvenate ourselves physically and mentaly, in order to do greater things upon our rweturn to work.
I hope that we all had a joyous and fruitful Aidilfitri. For those travelling from their hometowns this week, I prsy for a safe journey home.
Again, I take this opportunity to wish all my readers Selamat Hari ray, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute