A third national car! Why do we need another national car? What is so exclusive about the automotive sector for it to deserve a national company, moreover, a third one?
The automotive sector is renowned as the mother of all industries, because it evolves around mechanical, chemical, electrical, electronic, materials, Information Technology, etc – converging the sciences mentioned above with manufacturing, services and finance into a comprehensive “mega-sector”.
The diversity and depth of automotive industry requires each modular system and component, needed to produce a car, to undergo its own design, development, testing, manufacturing process, after sales and servicing.
We now have two full fledged national brands, i.e. Proton and Perodua. Both have successfully contributed to Malaysia’s industrialisation. Perodua has emerged as the largest domestic market shareholder, with an aggressive export plan in the future, and is now able to internally style and engineer their latest models. While Proton has always been the leader in engineering and vehicle development, however their market share has reduced. In my view, their turnaround plan is already showing signs that it will bear fruits in the near future, and we remain committed to facilitate their transformation.
So where does a third national car come in?
The car is rapidly evolving from a transport vessel towards a connected lifestyle domain – a liveable space to perform daily activities beyond the traditional “waiting room” during our daily commute.
Cars are expected to be autonomous, and this requires vehicles to be connected to infrastructure, environment, other vehicles and everything including pedestrians and cyclists.
Battery based powertrains and autonomous navigation are expected to become the dominant technology within the next few decades, and more convergence will be seen in new technology areas such as nanotechnology, telecommunication, big data management – even sectors such as human resource management, marketing, legal, urban planning, etc will be become more relevant to the transport (mobility) sector.
This new convergence is expected to create a new mega-sector, called the Connected Mobility sector.
More industries such as healthcare, energy, agriculture, creative, logging, aquaculture and retail will also need to adapt to the emerging disruption created, resulting from connected mobility.
For example, a connected vehicle would enrich our daily commute – imagine a meeting convened in the car, with decisions made on the way to the office, with each individual no longer constrained by location or space. The vehicle becomes a highly productive space, equipped with the technology to enhance our work-life balance.
Furthermore, the rise of the digital economy and fintech have given birth to new platforms and opportunities to start new businesses such as e-commerce and crowdsourcing services. The inclusion of the physical aspect of logistics into this digital economy is necessary and this is enabled by connected mobility, i.e. Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
Therefore, a national car project will gear Malaysia for the next phase, or a new “S-curve” for the industry.
More importantly, this next phase can be best achieved when we have a national car project in which we have a position to maximise participation of local talents and businesses, especially with regards to meaningful research and development activities.
This in turn will enhance our overall capability and technological uptake, in line with global trends surrounding Digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence, Nano-engineering, Data science and other new areas and disciplines in the future.
The previous national car projects have undeniably given us the experience and knowledge to embark on a third national car – in line with our next goal.
For Malaysia to be a great nation, we must emulate the world’s great nations in their command of science and technology. Nations such as Germany, the United States or Japan are the leaders of the global markets, with very little reliance on commodities and natural resources which are increasing in rarity.
The third national car is the overall driver that embodies this scientific and technological agenda.
The Minister of International Trade and Industry recently invited automotive players to submit proposals on the third national car by the 15th of October 2018. I echo his announcement and call for participation from OEMs, vendors and relevant stakeholders to contribute their ideas towards taking this next step in the nation’s next phase of industrialisation.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.