Changes for the new year

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Motoring -

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.

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