New Straits Times - - Cars Bikes & Trucks - AR­MAN AH­MAD

LAST week, we talked about the hur­dles that the Malaysian mo­tor in­dus­try needs to over­come be­fore al­ter­na­tive en­ergy ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Tesla can come knock­ing at our door.

The gov­ern­ment has yet to of­fi­cially an­nounce an ex­ten­sion of the in­cen­tives that have seen a num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers bring­ing in en­ergy-ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cles (EEVs) in the past.

Cars like the Hyundai Ioniq, Nis­san Leaf, Re­nault Zoe and Twizy, Toy­ota Camry Hy­brid, BMW 330E and Mercedes C350E would see phe­nom­e­nal in­crease in prices with­out the in­cen­tives.

The Toy­ota Camry Hy­brid, for ex­am­ple, would bal­loon to more than RM250,000, but with the in­cen­tives, the price is around RM175,000.

Be­fore you com­plain that these are cars the Joe Pub­lic can’t af­ford, take a step back and ru­mi­nate that the af­flu­ent may help the rest of us live the elec­tric dream in Malaysia.

These cars may still be pre­mi­umpriced ve­hi­cles, but their sales will help spear­head the de­vel­op­ment of in­fras­truc­ture that will pave the way for an­other wave of elec­tric cars, the type you and I are likely to buy for our daily com­mute.

Al­ready, elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing sta­tions are be­ing set up at 66 Petronas sta­tions around the coun­try.

These cars will also en­cour­age Malaysians to get ed­u­cated and in­formed about the ben­e­fits of the new tech­nol­ogy and get them ready to adopt it.

Just like power win­dows, power steer­ing, anti-lock brakes, airbags, trac­tion con­trol and nu­mer­ous other au­to­mo­tive tech­nolo­gies, it is the pre­mium prod­ucts that pen­e­trate the mar­ket with new fea­tures first be­fore they fil­ter down to the lower end of the mar­ket.

If and when fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles like the plug-in hy­brid Hyundai Ioniq, for ex­am­ple, make it to Malaysian shores, the ecosys­tem may al­ready ex­ist for them to move peo­ple re­li­ably and freely.

The gov­ern­ment has lofty am­bi­tious for elec­tric mo­bil­ity in Malaysia, no doubt im­pres­sive on glitzy Pow­erpoint pre­sen­ta­tions.

Un­der the Na­tional Elec­tric Mo­bil­ity Blueprint, the gov­ern­ment aims to have 100,000 elec­tric cars, 100,000 elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cles and 2,000 elec­tric buses on our roads by 2020. In ad­di­tion, it aims to have 125,000 charg­ing sta­tions to sup­port these ve­hi­cles. A tall or­der, since right now there are only 155 such sta­tions.

There seems to be a slight dis­con­nect be­tween the peo­ple mak­ing the poli­cies and in­dus­try play­ers who roll up their sleeves and make it hap­pen.

Speak to any in­dus­try ex­pert, and he may tell you that this tar­get may not be achieved, at least, not with­out some tough de­ci­sions be­ing made.

The gov­ern­ment has to an­nounce a longer time frame for the in­cen­tives to work. It could be a for a pe­riod of three to five years.

Car­mak­ers need a re­al­is­tic time­line for plan­ning and with­out it, the risks they face are great. Like any busi­ness, the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing some profit af­ter an ini­tial out­lay is the end-goal.

Mercedes-Benz Malaysia sales and mar­ket­ing, pas­sen­ger cars vi­cepres­i­dent Mark Raine said their EEV and hy­brid in­cen­tives last year would con­tinue un­til the end of this year.

“The lo­cally-pro­duced hy­brids are a tes­ta­ment of the close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Mercedes-Benz Malaysia and the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. The in­tro­duc­tion of lo­cally-pro­duced hy­brids has been a large op­er­a­tion and in­vest­ment in peo­ple, fa­cil­i­ties and re­sources for Mercedes-Benz Malaysia. It is a re­sult of our con­tin­ued in­vest­ments in the coun­try, which are also geared to­wards sup­port­ing the na­tion’s as­pi­ra­tions of be­com­ing an EEV hub.

“We look for­ward to bring­ing the lat­est au­to­mo­tive tech­nolo­gies to the Malaysian mar­ket and hope for poli­cies that will sup­port this. We are in dis­cus­sions on the fu­ture of the cus­tomised in­cen­tive scheme for Mercedes-Benz in Malaysia,” he said.

How­ever, he added that MercedesBenz in Malaysia faced dif­fi­cul­ties plan­ning for fu­ture model launches due to the un­cer­tainty of fu­ture in­cen­tives.

“Cur­rent poli­cies are based on a two-year syl­labus. This is a chal­lenges for us in terms of long-term port­fo­lio plan­ning.

“We ad­vo­cate a longer term hori­zon, stretch­ing up to five years, as this takes into con­sid­er­a­tion prod­uct life cy­cles and en­ables strate­gic longterm plan­ning for our lo­cally-pro­duced prod­ucts as well as se­cur­ing funds for the in­vest­ments into Malaysia by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia,” said Raine.

Malaysian Green Tech­nol­ogy Corp chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ah­mad Hadri Haris showing the elec­tric cars parked in the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s premises. The gov­ern­ment aims to have 100,000 elec­tric cars, 100,000 elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cles and 2,000 elec­tric buses on our roads by 2020.

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