CYBERJAYA - Malaysia will produce a new national car, International Trade and Industry Minister Darrell Leiking announced on Friday (August 9).
The first model prototype of the car, likely to be a hybrid sedan, will be released as early as March next year, with the launch of the first model a year later.
Malaysian company DreamEDGE will produce the vehicle, which will be wholly privately funded without using government funds.
"The Prime Minister had informed me recently to look into the facilities at DreamEDGE as they will be an important mover in the industry," Leiking told a news conference, adding that the car will be "a fully fledged local vehicle developed in Malaysia".
Leiking described it as a completely new and "exclusive" model, with "advanced technology," adding that its price tag would be affordable to the public.
"The national car project is the nation's industrialisation catalyst, to spur the meaningful participation of Malaysians in advanced technology adoption," the ministry said.
It added that it will create new opportunities for local vendors and talent to be part of the high technology value chain.
DreamEDGE founder and chief executive officer Khairil Adri Adnan said the company will develop a C-segment sedan as its first car.
"It will be either advanced ICE (internal combustion engine) or hybrid," he said.
Japanese car maker Daihatsu Motor Company will provide manufacturing support but will not acquire any stake in the project.
Established in 2007, DreamEDGE has a manufacturing and prototyping centre in Cyberjaya, as well as an R&D office in Tokyo.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had championed his cause for a third national car project since he returned to power last year, rubbishing claims that Proton was a failure.
He argued that Proton had been a success until foreign cars were allowed to enter the country unrestricted, with conditions imposed on the sale of Malaysian cars in other countries.
A national car would allow Malaysia the opportunity to develop the engineering sector and boost its skills and knowledge, he said.
Mahathir made clear his disappointment when the Malaysian carmaker was sold to China's Zhejiang Geely Automotive in 2017, likening it to Singapore's separation from Malaysia in 1965.
Proton was the brainchild and pet project of Mahathir when he was prime minister from 1981 to 2003.
Malaysia's previous two national car projects, the Proton and Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua or Perodua, also partnered with Japanese manufacturers in line with Mahathir's Look East policy in the 1980s when Malaysia sent students to tertiary institutions in Japan to learn engineering and technology as well as Japanese work ethics and values.
DreamEDGE was founded by Khairil Adri, a graduate of Polytechnic University Japan, and calls itself a product of the Look East policy.
The company has built prototypes of electric vehicles.