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Sunday Musings: Our National Cars

Approved Permits

What grabbed the headlines this week was when Dr. Mahathir, our former Prime Minister, wrote on his blog about his thoughts regarding car prices. Quoting his blog post, Dr. Mahathir mentioned that:

“Malaysians are perpetually complaining about car prices being too high in Malaysia. Yet we should know that on a per head basis, there are more cars in Malaysia than all the other Asean countries. Already there are traffic jams all over K.L., many half a kilo long! It takes half an hour to move just one kilometre. If we lower the car prices, more vehicles will be on the road. And of course more and longer traffic jams. The jams also contribute much to pollution in K.L. as the engines run but the cars are going nowhere.”

In recent articles, Malaysia became the highlight of the world when the article claimed that car prices in Malaysia were the 2nd highest in the world. As a Malaysian, we are no strangers to paying extremely high prices for cars. Rationale behind it as Dr. M has pointed out, was to impose high taxes on cars especially on big-engined luxury models in order to limit the consumption of fossil fuel.

Logically, it does make sense. With large volumes of cars on the road, traffic jams do indeed burn a lot of fuel and cause pollution. There are several offsets to the high tax, offsets such as cheaper petrol/diesel (subsidised) and also subsidised toll highways. But somewhere along the line, we as the people did expect that the money saved from the reduction of subsidies would be channeled to proper public transportation and better roads to offset the increasing number of cars on the road.

But deep down, analyzing his second half of his article, it went down to the topic of AP’s or Approved Permits. The AP system would definitely open up a huge can of worms and I am sure every Malaysian have their own opinions formulated in their heads on it. I won’t say that I am an expert in the system but I definitely feel that it is about time that the system be reviewed especially on car imports.

The biggest statement I guess which most of the press media picked up was when Dr. M mentioned that:

Stopping APs will only flood the market with foreign makes which will be the death knell of national cars. 

So over the years, where our national car makers have been able to thrive in our local market, they still are viewed to be protected by this system.

Which brings me to the overall auto industry. Now I am a huge fan of the TV series Top Gear and I do watch their episodes on reruns from time to time. There was a particular episode where the 3-stooges talked about communism and whether it produced any good cars. As usual they ridiculed and had a bit of a laugh with certain makes and models but there was also another point when they went to China. I do remember JC saying that at the pace that China is going, cars made there will get better. And just recently, the Qoros 3, a car designed in China passed the EuroNCAP with a 5 star safety rating!

In no way that I am mocking our national car makers. Honestly, I know Proton cars are good cars, reliable and is cheap to maintain. I have a 7-year old Wira sitting at home and it only cost me RM90 to fix three leaks somewhere at the radiator and RM500 to change a front bumper, head light and knock the boot into place. It does it’s job and will continue to serve a certain market segment. Perhaps its the speed of evolution that our national car makers take may not be up to the consumer’s expectations as international companies continue pushing out new replacement models and new technologies at such as fast pace.

Still it is a pity as we see our national cars getting lambasted online but in all honesty, I know they have improved but it definitely can be better.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Autofreaks.Net