Changes for the new year
HEADING into the third week of the new year, the one thing Malaysians can count on is that 2019 will be an interesting one for the automotive industry.
Following the change in government last year, a new transport minister was appointed, and he was quick to voice his concerns and implement changes on existing policies.
One such change made by Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook during his first few weeks in charge was stopping nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) from selling special vehicle plate numbers as it does not benefit the Government.
“A successful NGO would only have to pay the Government RM1mil to get the plates, but the resale value could be roughly RM20mil per plate. That itself is a huge loss of revenue to the Government,” said Loke in an interview with The Star.
He has since taken his stand on multiple issues under his purview such as the issue of unchanged Takata airbags, unpaid summonses by private and commercial vehicle owners, stricter monitoring for emergency lane abusers, ridehailing apps and the state of the country’s public transport.
Fairer for all
The biggest news came at the very start of 2019, with the Government moving to once again set petrol prices based on a weekly float model. For obvious reasons, motorists will be directly affected, but the ripple effect extends to every consumer product one way or another, thus concerning all Malaysians.
The new prices for RON 97, RON 95 petrol and diesel are to be announced every Friday and will take effect on Saturdays. As has been the case throughout the years, we can expect long queues at all petrol stations whenever a higher petrol price is announced.
While some motorists may cry inconvenience at not having a standard pricing model, the revised weekly float system is the best option, especially for consumers, as it is reflective of global oil prices. Furthermore, the Government has pledged that should oil prices rise higher than expected, the prices for RON 95 and diesel will be capped at RM2.20 and RM2.18 per litre respectively.
The news of a float model comes as a bitter pill to swallow for the Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia (PDAM) as it results in its members losing money should oil prices go down. Oil companies currently have the upper hand as they can wait until oil prices rise before delivering fresh supply, hampering the profit margins for privately owned petrol stations that hold an average of three to five days’ worth of fuel in their respective tanks.
PDAM is already in talks with some oil companies to help manage the profit margin issue faced by retailers, but the review of petrol dealers’ margin by the Government is the most logical and positive step for the time being.
Flying the flag
After losing out to Perodua in terms of market shares for many years, Proton is aiming to bounce back with its first-ever SUV – the X70.
This is the first collaborative vehicle to be released by Proton since Zhejiang Geely inked a 49.9% stake in the company, and it is reasonable for Proton to have such high hopes for the new vehicle as the SUV segment has experienced continuous growth in recent years.
The market for SUVs is still substantially smaller than the one for passenger cars but Proton has been wise to focus on improving consumer perception and win back customer confidence.
Doing so successfully will, in turn, boost sales for its range of passenger cars – the national automaker’s bread and butter. There have already been more than 15,000 bookings for the X70 since last September, which is an encouraging number for a vehicle that was officially launched only a month ago.
For now, the X70 may be produced entirely in China and imported into Malaysia as fully built-up units, but it is a good start.
Perodua will also have its own SUV offering in the Aruz. Having dominated the local market with the highest number of vehicles sold in 2016 and 2017 (the final figure for 2018 has not yet been released), the company will be keen to ensure it maintains its top spot.
The Aruz is positioned as a budget or compact seven-seat SUV and should not find any direct competition from the X70, which has higher specs and power output.
Only teasers have been released by Perodua thus far, but the company has seen promising signs upon opening for booking with 300 bookings after the first day. With such high numbers from both national manufacturers, we can expect the number of SUVs to double or even triple on the road by year end.
More options for Malaysians
If the recently concluded Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show is anything to go by, the automotive industry for 2019 should remain positive despite slower economic growth.
Top marques were seen at the show, displaying several new models that will make their debut this year. These included workhorses such as the Ford Ranger Raptor and updated Mitsubishi Triton, sedans such as the new Toyota Camry and Vios, and SUVs from DS Automobiles and Hyundai. New motorbikes, electric cars and commercial vehicles were also present at the show.
It is safe to assume that these companies would not have invested so much into the show if they did not believe in the local automotive market. Thus, 2019 certainly holds promise and is a year that car buyers and motorists can look forward to.
Malaysians will soon see an influx of SUVs on the road with the latest offerings by both national car makers.
The first thing motorists will have to get used to this year is the newly reintroduced weekly float model for fuel.