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Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (4th-left), International Trade and Industry Minister (MITI) Datuk Darell Leiking (5th-left), Deputy MITI Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming (6th-left), Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Mohd Zuki Ali (3rd-left) at the launch of the National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2020 in Kuala Lumpur. - NSTP/Aizuddin Saad
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (4th-left), International Trade and Industry Minister (MITI) Datuk Darell Leiking (5th-left), Deputy MITI Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming (6th-left), Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Mohd Zuki Ali (3rd-left) at the launch of the National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2020 in Kuala Lumpur. - NSTP/Aizuddin Saad

The revised National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2020 was finally unveiled yesterday by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, albeit delayed, due to the extensive consultations by the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) with industry stakeholders.

With much talk before this centred around another national car project, Malaysians may be forgiven if they feel NAP 2020 does not live up to the anticipated hype.

We may well be past splashy and heavy state-directed investments in such projects; hence, NAP 2020 is the most natural progression as Malaysia’s automotive industry moves up the value chain in tandem with innovations in the industry that are occurring at lightning speed.

With the internal combustion engine likely to be on its last wheels worldwide, NAP 2020 must not only prepare Malaysia for that eventuality but, more importantly, be able to leverage strengths built by the local automotive industry so that we can attract new investments and take part in the global automotive manufacturing ecosystem.

True to form, Dr Mahathir said the “New Malaysian Vehicle Project” emphasises research and development and incorporation of latest technologies as catalysts for new upstream and downstream industries.

Malaysia’s key strength has always been its internal automotive market, still the largest in Asean, in the passenger-vehicle sector. It is critical that we leverage this to become a vital technological cog in the emerging automotive ecosystem.

NAP 2020 will come in three phases, to be implemented through the entire decade till 2030, with the view towards preparing both the industry and Malaysian consumers for the era of energy efficient vehicles.

Two key considerations are expected to drive NAP 2020. One is the government’s reformed initiative to shift from government-driven to private sector-driven growth, and two, the country is more discerning in the kinds of industries it would like to nurture.

Understandably, the focus would be investments in high-tech manufacturing like those in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), renewable energy such as solar and wind, and “services that create respectable-paying jobs”, as said by Dr Mahathir last year.

MITI has assured that intended outcomes of NAP 2020 will emphasise research on new technologies, new business and jobs creation, new manufacturing processes and value chains, with particular focus on Next Generation Vehicles, Mobility as a Service and 4IR.

Indeed, NAP 2020 is most opportune and timely, not just because of new technological advances which Malaysia needs to strategise and latch onto, but also due to the likely seismic shifts in global trade patterns arising out of the Sino-American strategic rivalry.

As this emerging trend becomes a vital calculus for global industry captains to decide where to locate manufacturing plants that cater to the technologies and industries of tomorrow, this Leader is hopeful that NAP 2020 would serve as a guide-post to ensure the country is well-positioned to land a slice of such investments.

This Leader also believes NAP 2020 is only a start. The serious follow-through must now begin. Human-capital upgrading and investments will be required and may be especially crucial.

With the government as proactive industry enabler, the nation’s automotive private sector must now prove it can truly shine.

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