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  • Proton brand to enter China market with Geely – new JV to focus on fresh models, electrification tech

    Proton has signed a heads of agreement with Geely as a step towards the assembly and sale of Proton cars in China. Both parties will enter into an equal-share joint venture for this purpose, which will be announced in due course.

    The agreement entails new models which will be developed with Geely from this point onward, and will focus on electrification technology. Geely already has said technology in its portfolio and has several models on sale thus equipped, including the Geely Bo Rui GE plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and mild hybrid models (MHEV) for the Chinese market. The PHEV combo is similar to Volvo’s T5 Twin Engine powertrain.

    Also specified in the agreement is Geely’s role in providing the vehicle platform, and engineering aspects such as engines and drivetrain for the models involved; while Proton will bear the task of exterior and overall design for the new models involved.

    It is understood that these upcoming models will be sold in the China market with Proton branding, while Proton’s existing platforms are also under consideration for the development of further China market models, should the platforms be deemed suitable.

    This latest development was announced at a function at Geely’s headquarters in Hangzhou, which was attended by Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group chairman Li Shufu, minister of international trade and industry Darell Leiking, minister of primary industries Teresa Kok and Perak chief minister Ahmad Faizal Azumu.

    This move also demonstrates Geely’s commitment to explore further cooperation with Proton to further strengthen the latter’s position and widen its reach for the export market. Previously, Proton had made an attempt to enter China via joint ventures with Youngman and Goldstar, though it was an effort which failed to bear fruit.

    “Clearly with Geely on board, Proton’s route into China has become more tenable. Part of Geely’s role is to secure the manufacturing licenses and regulatory approvals required for such a venture under China’s regulations. Geely will also identify a suitable location where the manufacturing facility is to be based,” said DRB-Hicom MD Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar.

    Proton’s current vendors who are competitive and meet the required standards will be considered as suppliers for the upcoming joint venture, Syed Faisal added. This is in line with the Malaysian government’s desire to open up opportunities for local vendors to be a part of China’s greater supply chain.

    “In line with the prime minister’s deep expectations, we have decided to deepen our strategic cooperation between our two sides in the field of new energy, increase our investment in architectures, product platforms, as well as core component investment in Malaysia, which will help both nations occupy the commanding heights of future development in the automotive industry, said Geely chairman Li Shufu.

    Speaking at the press conference after the signing ceremony, Tun M said that he hopes the collaboration will enhance the engineering capabilities and knowledge of Proton. “I have to admit, there have been much improved quality and technology shown by Geely through its new models,” said the PM, who last visited Geely’s Hangzhou HQ four years ago.

    It would be a considerable achievement for Proton to penetrate the Chinese market even with a small percentage of market share to begin with, as the company aims to increase production and expand its export markets. It will be a vast field to harvest from; the passenger car market in China has been growing at a considerable rate over the last 10 years, and it’s now the world’s biggest auto market.

    For scale, 6.76 million passenger vehicles were sold in China in 2008, a figure which has grown to 24 million vehicles in 2017. Geely has taken its place at the sharp end of the Chinese market – which has approximately 300 automakers – by becoming the first privately-owned Chinese brand (as opposed to government linked) in China to reach the one million vehicles sales mark last year.

    More precisely, Geely sold 1.24 million vehicles in 2017 for a market share of 5.06%. The company has sold 125,000 vehicles monthly on average in the first six months of this year. The Geely Boyue, which is the basis for Proton’s first SUV that will be launching in Malaysia later this year, has charted sales of 20,000 units a month in China this year.

    “The car that I like to drive the most in Malaysia is the Volkswagen Tiguan – the ease of driving and comfort is very good. When I drove the Geely Boyue, I found that the quality is approximately the same. So there has been tremendous improvement in the cars produced by China and Geely,” said Mahathir, when asked about his experience testing the Boyue. The PM has been spotted driving a previous-generation brown VW Tiguan in Langkawi.


    GALLERY: Geely Bo Rui GE MHEV and PHEV

     
  • DRIVEN: Volkswagen Golf Mk7.5 – meeting all needs

    If you ask a small pool of people what type of sambal they prefer with their nasi lemak, you’ll get a range of answers ranging from the ‘sweet type’ to the ‘slightly spicy’ and even the ‘I would like to leak out of my head level of pedas’.

    Whatever the answer, it’s clear that each person has their tolerance level but not all are willing to stay complacent with theirs. Some are willing to take a chance and be a little more daring the next time they order a plate of Malaysia’s trademark meal.

    Thankfully, the latest Volkswagen Golf Mk7.5 follows the sambal levelling guide closely, and you can have yours in four different flavours – 1.4 TSI (Sportline and R-Line), GTI and R. Naturally, we’d like to find out what these cars are like to drive and to experience first hand, the results of the performance (and price) gap between them.

    Read the full review here.

     
  • FIRST DRIVE: 2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

    Ah, if it isn’t Porsche’s most daring attempt at swooning tycoons… The original Porsche Panamera might not have the looks to impress, but for what it’s worth, the lengthy luxury vehicle was admirably athletic for its size. Now in its second iteration, the Panamera has been improved in all areas, with even more emphasis put on design and luxury.

    For some, the shooting brake-bodied Panamera Sport Turismo is the more palatable option, design-wise, and that’s exactly what we had on review – the entry-level Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo.

    Armed with a 3.0 litre turbocharged V6, the five metre-long vehicle boasts having 330 PS and 450 Nm on tap, and it manages the century sprint in 5.3 seconds. All-wheel drive is standard for the Sport Turismo, and in this guise, the top speed is rated at 259 km/h. Porsche Traction Management (PTM), rear-axle steering and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control are standard across the board, with an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic and an active multi-plate clutch managing drive distribution between axles.

    Would you part your million ringgit for the Panamera (prices start from RM990k, or RM1.2 million as tested here) or would you look elsewhere for a statelier ride to be chauffeured in? Our brief stint with it left quite an impression, so sit back, relax and enjoy this video review. As usual, we’d like to hear your thoughts, so leave your comments below.

     
  • MSF celebrates Merdeka with night endurance race

    It’s fast coming up to the 61st year of Malaysia’s independence, and the Malaysian Speed Festival (MSF) is gearing up to the occasion with 14 non-stop hours of fierce car and motorcycle racing, drifting action and a celebration of automotive culture at large with the series’ Merdeka round on August 31 itself.

    The event features this year’s only Enduro Cup for the SuperTurismo race series, held at night under the bright new 150-lumen lights of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) for the first time since the series, previously called Saturday Night Fever (SNF), received its MSF branding.

    The races are held in a 40-minute endurance format, with the same wide variety of race car categories covering everything from tiny kei cars like the Perodua Kancil to popular Honda and Toyota models. The longer races are bound to push drivers, technicians and engineers to their limits.

    Also returning is the MSF Superbikes series, which has been well received with the grid for Round 2 in April being full within an hour of registration opening – such is the eagerness of bike racers to compete. As usual, there are Super 400 and Super 1000 categories corresponding to the engine capacities, and each is split further into three groups depending on the respective riders’ pace. There will now be a dedicated female category as well, paving the way for an increasing number of women to participate in the series.

    Fans of sideways action will be delighted to find that the MSF Drift Gonzo is back, providing a time- and points-based challenge for drivers looking to slither their way around a laid-out course in the most outlandish way possible. In total, over 630 drivers and riders across various disciplines took part in Round 2, so expect the same level of packed, close-fought competition.

    There are other activities in store for those catching the action, as automotive lifestyle group NoEqual will be hosting its Tea and Tires V3.0 event that will show off the coolest customised vehicles. In addition, visitors will be able to enjoy refreshments from various food trucks at the North and South Paddock and at the Grandstand area.

    Once again, the MSF Merdeka round will be happening on August 31, with full-day passes offered at RM20 per person before 10am and RM35 after. The tickets come with free grandstand seating and access to all racing events happening that day.

     
  • OPINION: The new national car project, the real issues

    When asked about his numerous shortcomings, Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways not to build a lightbulb.” While many have resorted to debate the exact number in his quote, it is best we look through the key message of perseverance enshrined in the inventor’s words.

    The largest part of my work is the implementation of government framework and policy specific to developing the Malaysian automotive industry. In this context, implementation is based on clear strategies that are coherent with the macro-economic direction of our government.

    One thing I’ve learned in my line of work – one I consider a great honour and challenge – is the elimination of preconceived bias and assumptions to any issue. As a nation that is itself on a learning curve, we too must look at issues from both sides of the divide before forming an opinion.

    With that said, let me delve into the debate on the new national car project. However, to fairly look at this massive complex issue, there are certain prevalent assumptions that should be clarified.

    Firstly, it is important to establish the facts about the state of the current automotive industry. To date, there are more than 25 OEMs and around 700 vendors that are part of the ecosystem of the domestic industry.

    The keyword here is “ecosystem.” While OEMs and vendors are the parties most likely to be discussed within the public sphere, the ecosystem is wider and deeper than we can imagine.

    Just to name a few, the automotive sector has developed tool and die makers, raw material producers, machine builders, part distributors, accessories, workshops, recyclers and remanufacturers. This employs a workforce of more than 700,000 Malaysians as designers, engineers, technicians, production operators, servicemen, and many non-technical positions – all equipped with skills and talent in a sector of high technology.

    While an OEM is part of the ecosystem, the discussion about industrialisation should not only revolve around OEMs alone. It should be viewed holistically, to also include the entire value chain that makes up the industry.

    Secondly, while there are valid points on both sides of national car issue, they are often convoluted by the assumption that it is a repeat of previous attempts, including its historical parameters and strategies.

    This has led to unnecessary speculation on future car prices, market fluctuation, trade policies, accusations of anti-liberalisation, and so on so forth, while the entire decision has thus far merely been subject to its impact studies and consultation to move forward in the economic direction set by the government of the day – on a macro level.

    To fairly look at the national car issue, we must take a holistic view at the economic goals of the nation. Despite having a comparative advantage in agricultural and commodity-based industries, we decided that being a consumer nation was not enough for us, and we needed to industrialise in order to become an advanced nation.

    Industrialisation in this context is not merely about having factories. It is about being free and independent, at the very least sufficiently co-dependent, on ourselves in key technology areas. Any advanced nation in the world would demonstrate such as trait.

    In Malaysia’s case, the automotive industry was chosen to spur that independence. Full-fledged automotive design capabilities – from the drawing board to the final production – was to be created in order to develop an advanced economy, spinning off to other industries.

    For example, if we can engineer automotive plastic components, then the same engineering knowledge and skill will trickle down to other plastic based industries. Without an automotive industry, we would still be able to manufacture plastic products, but would be limited to producing low yield, low barrier items.

    As we all know, low barrier markets are highly volatile markets which bear high risk for all those within them. The fall of Malaysia’s dominance in the world tin market, circa 1985, is a good lesson to us all.

    This is where the idea of a new national car comes into the picture. Just like how Proton spurred our first industrial phase, it can spur the next phase of industrialisation for Malaysia.

    The world automotive market, interestingly, is now going through a transition. As technology develops away from fossil fuel dependence towards electrification and autonomous driving, it is slowly becoming a blue ocean for new market players. Who knew that Apple and Google would even consider entering the automotive market as a manufacturer, but recent news is rife with speculation that this is in the pipeline.

    To keep up, Malaysia must consider all options to spur the next stage of our industry. I have written numerous pieces in my column (for the MAI website), in which, while the final equation for our automotive goals is a work in progress, the elements of success are becoming more and more defined.

    The new national car would firstly hinge on the experience built from our current automotive ecosystem, adapting to the backdrop of global trends in the global automotive markets. The blue ocean mentioned above opens the gate for the transformation towards next-generation vehicles and connected mobility, in line with future trends.

    In keeping with global trade norms, options may include supporting the expansion of existing national brands, leveraging on partnerships between local and foreign OEMs that currently exist, or even direct international collaboration between Malaysian OEMs and major automotive market players around the world.

    This must include the optimisation of current and future investments of domestic and foreign direct investments (DDI & FDI), to strike the balance of mutual interests between investors and meaningful participation of Malaysians within the automotive industry.

    While technology has evolved, so has Malaysia’s position as a regional automotive hub, in particular with regards to energy efficiency. Despite its smaller industry volume, it has attracted billions in investment to allow Malaysians to participate in higher value activities within the automotive value chain – making us a nation of choice for regional collaboration in automotive development.

    For example, the recent announcement of the revival of the ASEAN car project was followed by an agreement between MAI and Institut Otomotif Indonesia (IOI) to enhance collaboration between automotive vendors of both neighbouring countries, gearing towards developing the ASEAN car.

    With the advantage of hindsight, experience and new opportunities, a national car project is a strong option to spur the next phase of automotive development. Let a healthy debate take place – we should allow time and space for ideas to manifest themselves by putting aside our preconceived bias.

    Madani Sahari is CEO of the Malaysia Automotive Insitute (MAI).

    *The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not represent or reflect the views of paultan.org.

     
  • SPYSHOTS: Audi RS Q3 – 400 hp AMG GLA 45 rival

    Audi’s high-performance compact SUV, the RS Q3 has been spotted undergoing high-speed tests again at the Nurburgring, seen here with bodywork that is likely more representative of the eventual model that will make it to showrooms. Since that sighting, the base Q3 had made its debut, which will also indicate that more versions are due to join its line-up.

    This second outing also appears to confirm that the forthcoming RS Q3 will follow in the footsteps of its predecessor in foregoing significantly widened bodywork over the standard model range, as the RS4 Avant features over the standard A4. It does however feature a more aggressive pattern in its grille and side intakes in its front bumper, which were not seen on the previous test mule.

    As before, the RS Q3 should feature a chassis that rides lower on a specific wheel-and-tyre combination which house what appear to be carbon-ceramic brakes, along with its own suspension setup. Around the back, large oval exhaust outlets continue to make their mark as an RS model distinguisher. As before, our spy photographers note that it emits the distinctive five-cylinder sound, and is likely to top the 400 hp mark.

    That powerplant will likely be a development of the outgoing RS Q3, which produced 367 hp and 465 Nm of torque in top performance guise, which is 27 hp and 15 Nm more than the ‘standard’ RS Q3. This development will put the RS Q3 closer in the numbers race with the rivalling Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, which outputs 381 hp and 475 Nm of torque. With the Q3 tipped to reach European dealerships in November, the RS Q3 will likely debut in 2019.

     
  • Sales of Alfa Romeo Mito to be discontinued in 2019

    It’s official, the Alfa Romeo Mito will be discontinued in early 2019, said Europe boss Roberta Zerbi. An Autocar report states that the move was so that the Italian brand could shift its focus to making SUVs and sports cars.
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    Earlier in June, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) revealed a five-year roadmap for Alfa Romeo, a plan which includes the addition of two new SUVs, a range-topping 8C sports car as well as a modern-day GTV and a four-seat coupé. As you would’ve guessed, the Mito was nowhere to be seen in the plan, and now we know why.

    Zerbi has given Autocar the confirmation that sales for the Mito will be discontinued early next year. “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” she said, adding that previous buyers of the Mito would hopefully migrate into the Giulia or upcoming small SUV, which will sit below the Stelvio.

    The small SUV will be the brand’s upcoming model, and it’s one Zerbi is most excited about. “This is the one that will allow us to talk to a wider audience, a younger audience of 30- to 40-year-olds. It can help fill the gap between the Giulietta and Stelvio. And people that bought a Mito in the last couple of years – people grow up, start having children [and need a bigger car].”

    Zerbi also confirmed that the new SUV won’t look quite like a smaller Stelvio, refraining from adopting the Russian-doll styling approach such as Audi and its SUVs, for example. Instead, she said the Alfa Romeo SUV range will “look like a family [of cars]”. No estimated timeframe has been given for the new SUV’s launch, but expect to see it within the next couple of years.

    GALLERY: Alfa Romeo Mito Verde

    GALLERY: Alfa Romeo Giulia & Stelvio NRing edition

     
  • Nissan Terra launched in Thailand, 2.3L biturbo diesel

    After making an appearance at the recent Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show (GIIAS), the Nissan Terra has now been launched in Thailand, making the Land of Smiles the third market to receive the ladder-frame SUV after Indonesia and the Philippines.

    Open for booking from today, the Terra is a seven-seater offering based on the NP300 Navara pick-up truck, something that is evident from the carryover interior and similar exterior styling. It’s a late entry to the one-tonne truck-based SUV market already teeming with competitors such as the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Everest and Isuzu MU-X.

    Instead of the QR25 2.5 litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine available in China or the old YD25 2.5 litre turbodiesel offered in the Philippines and Indonesia, Thai buyers get the latest Renault-derived 2.3 litre twin-turbocharged diesel mill pushing out 190 PS at 3,750 rpm and 450 Nm of torque from 1,500 to 2,500 rpm. All models get the Navara’s seven-speed automatic transmission.

    The Terra is available in V 2WD, VL 2WD and VL 4WD variants, and they are all reasonably well equipped. Standard equipment includes automatic LED headlights and daytime running lights, fog lights, 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone auto climate control with rear blower control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a one-touch auto tumble function for the second-row seats.

    There’s more, including a limited-slip differential, an acoustic glass windscreen, leather upholstery, a five-inch multi-info display, a Kenwood 2-DIN navigation system with a seven-inch touchscreen, six speakers, a reverse camera and a digital rear-view mirror that Nissan says is a first for the segment.

    Safety-wise, all models get six airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, stability control, hill-start assist and ISOFIX child seat anchors on the second-row seats. The VL models add a 360-degree camera with Moving Object Detection (MOD), lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.

    Pricing for the Terra is listed at 1,316,000 baht (RM162,500) for the V 2WD, 1,349,000 baht (RM166,600) for the VL 2WD and 1,427,000 baht (RM176,200) for the VL 4WD.

    GALLERY: Nissan Terra at GIIAS 2018

     
  • FIRST LOOK: BMW i8 Coupé in Malaysia – RM1.31 mil

    The facelifted BMW i8 Coupé has just landed in Malaysia, sporting a look that’s largely unchanged from before. Price has gone up a bit, now costing RM1.31 million a pop compared to the RM1.2 million sticker price that came with its predecessor.

    It’s an absolute stunner in the metal, featuring blanked out grille, full LED headlights, 20-inch Jet Black alloy wheels, scissor doors and a sleek Donington Grey paint from the BMW Individual selection. Inside, the gearstick and iDrive dial is finished in a nice black ceramic coating, and the cabin can be further customised through BMW Individual as well.

    The biggest change is actually the unseen – battery capacity is up (11.6 kWh now, from 7.1 kWh) by 50%, allowing a pure electric range of 55 km. The electric motor is also updated to provide 141 hp (105 kW), which is a 12 hp (9 kW) increase from before. Together with the BMW TwinPower Turbo 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine (228 hp/320 Nm), the PHEV’s total system output is rated at 374 hp, enough to do the century sprint in 4.4 seconds. Its top speed is electronically-limited to 250 km/h.

    Watch the video above as we take you through a quick tour of the updated coupé. Also, enjoy the gallery below, and as usual, let us know what you think of the new i8. Would you pick this over, say, a Mercedes-AMG GT S?

    GALLERY: BMW i8 Coupé launch in Malaysia

     
  • All existing AES summonses to be written off – Loke

    The government has announced that all existing traffic summonses issued under the Automated Enforcement System (AES) will be wiped out, letting all offending drivers off the hook, The Star reports.

    Transport minister Anthony Loke said the decision to write off the AES tickets was made following the cabinet’s decision to take over AES operations completely from the two private companies running it now, beginning from September 1.

    He said there were 3.1 million unpaid summonses as of May, totaling up to about RM430 million in fines, but added that motorists will not be able to evade any offences committed after September 1. “This is a one-off. After September 1, the road transport department (JPJ) will fully take over the operations of AES and any summons issued then has to be paid. There will not be any more such offers or discounts,” Loke said.

    As of August last year, a total of 21 AES cameras were in operation across the country, and it was reported then that another 50 units were to be installed by the end of 2017. It was also said that an additional 100 AES cameras were set to be installed at strategic spots nationwide this year.

    The system, which was first announced in 2012, planned to have two concessionares operating 800 fixed and 500 portable speedtrap cameras across 831 “black spot” areas on highways in addition to stretches of state and federal roads, but has been plagued by issues and technicalities, resulting in a number of summons backlogs.

     
 

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Last Updated 16 Aug 2018



 

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