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  • 2014 Formula E Putrajaya ePrix postponed from October 18 to November 22 at Prime Minister’s request

    formula e

    The running of the 2014 Formula E Putrajaya ePrix has been moved from its original October 18 date to a month on – the second round of the 2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship will now take place on November 22.

    The change comes at the request of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak through his office – due to other agenda commitments, the PM is unable to attend the race on its original date and has requested the event to be rescheduled, to which the series has agreed to the postponement.

    “The Prime Minister has been fundamental to the FIA Formula E Championship racing in Malaysia and, following lengthy consultation with the FIA and the local motorsport federation, Formula E has decided to honour the request to reschedule the Putrajaya ePrix,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said in a statement.

    Formula E Putrajaya circuit layout

    The 2.56 km-long Putrajaya ePrix course is located near Perdana Putra, which houses the Prime Minister’s Office, and will use much of the main high street, running along buildings such as the Ministry of Finance. The temporary track will feature 12 corners.

    Ten teams, each with two drivers, will go head-to-head in the Spark-Renault SRT_01E full-electric single-seater racecar. The race will be held over a single day, on Saturday, in order to minimise disruption – the flow will see a free practice session, qualifying and 60-minute race followed by a live music concert on the day.

    The other Formula E race dates remain as before – the season opener takes place in Beijing around the iconic Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium on September 13. After Putrajaya, the series moves on to the Formula E Punta del Este ePrix in Uruguay, held on December 13.

  • Toyota Prius and Prius c buyers saved a collective total of around RM496 mil in 2013 with their purchases

    The Toyota Prius – used to be RM143k, is now RM216k

    Did you know that Malaysian Toyota Prius and Prius c buyers saved an estimated collective total of RM496 million last year in terms of import and excise duty exemptions when they bought these two hybrids? That’s just for the two Toyotas, and doesn’t include the amount in duties saved with the purchase of other CBU hybrid vehicles that qualified for exemptions, such as those sold by Honda, Nissan, Lexus and Audi.

    At about half a billion ringgit, it’s a fraction of what the government earned from vehicle import duties and excise duties in 2013. It was revealed at the NAP 2014 announcement that the government earned about RM480 million from import duties and RM7,308 million from excise duties in 2013. So total income would be about RM7,788 million – RM480 million is just 6% of this amount.

    With total government revenue estimated to have reached RM208.7 billion in 2013, the total import and excise duty income of RM7.8 billion represents only 3.73% of the pie.


    We derived the RM480 million number based on the 1,449 units of the Toyota Prius and 6,941 units of the Prius c sold in the country last year, multiplied by the estimated import/excise duty. We simplified the calculation by assuming every unit of the Prius is the more affordable non-Luxury spec.

    For the Prius, the estimated duty paid based on the difference between the duty free price and the new 2014 prices is RM73,400.52, while for the Prius c, it’s RM56,170.43.

    Incidentally, these buyers would also have saved more in the form of car loan interest that would have been charged on a higher selling price brought about by the full duties. We would have also liked to calculate another set of figures based on Honda’s hybrid sales numbers, but the new prices for the company’s CBU hybrids with taxes have yet to be announced.

    The Toyota Prius c – used to be RM97k, is now RM153k

    These are all ‘what if’ numbers, of course – if the Prius and Prius c were priced as high as the new 2014 prices in the first place, sales figures wouldn’t be as high as they were. So the amount that the government would have earned from the duties for these two cars would be lower.

    But then again, TIV is pretty much constant, and if a buyer doesn’t buy a Prius, he or she would be buying a Camry or a Corolla Altis at that price point instead. So no matter what, there is a certain duty that will be earned per unit of car sold, and the government lost duties for 8,390 Toyotas.

    Does a reduced need to subsidise fuel make up for lost excise duties?

    The Toyota Prius and Prius c are cars that are far more fuel efficient than a similiar sized model. So, the government would be getting savings in terms of less fuel to subsidise at the pumps.

    Based on data from Fuelly, the average fuel consumption for a 2013 Toyota Corolla is about 7.7 litres per 100 km (official figure is 6.9 L/100km). The average for a 2013 Prius is 4.8 litres per 100 km (official rating is 3.9 L/100km). Based on a 20,000 km per year commute (industry standard warranty mileage cap per year), this represents a savings of 580 litres per year.

    fuel-subsidies-june-2014 091

    Based on the June 2014 Subsidi Oleh Kerajaan note found at every fuel pump, the government subsidises RM0.71 per litre of RON95 sold. This means a Prius driver would save the government just RM411.80 every year in terms of fuel subsidies, which is really not much in the grand scheme of things when you take into consideration how much in duties the government has foregone.

    Just take note that generally people who bother contributing data to Fuelly are more likely to drive in a very fuel efficient manner, which is why they are part of the community and contribute data in the first place. So these reference consumption numbers are likely to lean towards the lower side of things.

    So, the exempted duties and the reduced subsidies don’t really balance out positively for the government, but does everything they do have to be “profitable” when it comes to the rakyat? And think about it – can you really put a price to a better environment?

    Can you put a value to reduced emissions for a better environment?

    A Toyota Prius is rated to emit only 89 grams per kilometre of CO2, while the new Corolla Altis emits 160 grams per kilometre of CO2. That’s almost half the amount of emissions, and while a Prius is stuck in a traffic jam, its combustion engine wouldn’t be running at all, helping reduce the amount of smoke that pedestrians have to breathe in.

    Hybrid incentives still exist, but import duty and excise duty exemptions are now limited to locally-assembled hybrid cars from 2014 onwards. The Honda Jazz Hybrid and the Mercedes-Benz S 400 L Hybrid are currently the only cars that still qualify for the duty exemptions in Malaysia. A locally-assembled Nissan Serena S-Hybrid will enter the market soon, but stock of the duty-exempted CBU version is still available.

    honda-jazz-hybrid-yorii 009
    The 2014 Honda Jazz petrol has already been launched – we’re now waiting for the hybrid

    Hopefully, these cars will be joined by more cars that the general public can afford. The Jazz Hybrid is still the last-generation model – it’s set to be replaced by a new Jazz Hybrid soon, and this will eventually be joined by a City Hybrid. Toyota will be offering a locally-assembled Toyota Camry Hybrid this year, but that is expected to be priced close to RM200k. UMW Toyota doesn’t really have a replacement for the Prius c, which was affordable to a lot of people with its sub-RM100k price tag. It looks like the Jazz Hybrid will be the sole competitor at that price range.

    Still, is the idea of more affordable hybrids in our market wishful thinking? The situation remains much the same on the electric vehicle front, but there’s some speculation coming about that import and excise duties may again be exempted for electric vehicles this coming Budget 2014, which would be beneficial to car companies who have invested in bringing in EVs like Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi.

    Electric vehicles were only introduced towards the end of the CBU hybrid incentives period, so there wasn’t really much time for the market to get to know them. They are however a more expensive proposition than hybrids, so the take-up might not be significant.

  • Honda Vezel to be called Honda HR-V in Indonesia, production to begin early next year

    honda-vezel-tms 004

    Well, it’s official – Honda has announced that the Honda Vezel, the company’s Jazz-based B-segment crossover, will receive the Honda HR-V moniker in Indonesia, bringing it in line with the US-market version that was introduced earlier this year. It’s looking more and more likely that the name will be used internationally, confining the Vezel designation to its home market.

    Honda’s Indonesian arm, Honda Prospect Motor confirmed that the car will make its appearance at the Indonesia International Motor Show (IIMS) from September 18 – where the order books for the mini-SUV will also be open – before production begins early next year. Two powertrain options will be offered, these being 1.5 litre and 1.8 litre i-VTEC engines.

    The company also revealed safety equipment for the Indonesian-market HR-V, including an electric parking brake, Auto Brake Hold, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and dual airbags.

    honda-vezel-tms 008

    “Since the first time it was sold in Japan in December 2013, this model has been well-received by consumers and has become the highest-selling SUV in Japan up until the end of the first half of this year,” said PT Honda Prospect Motor’s president director Tomoki Uchida.

    Marketing and after-sales director Jonfis Fandy added, “We believe this model will become the new choice in the Indonesian automotive market and will also be well-received by consumers in Indonesia.”

    honda-vezel-interior-tms 001

    The Honda Vezel made its world debut at the Tokyo Motor Show last November before going on sale in Japan on December 20, 2013. There, it is offered with a 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine with a CVT as well as in hybrid spec with the Sport Hybrid i-DCD system that mates a 1.5 litre Atkinson cycle i-VTEC engine with an electric motor and a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

    With the Honda HR-V making its regional debut in a little over a month’s time, it’s safe to assume that the car will be arriving on Malaysian shores sooner rather than later. It’ll be facing stiff competition in the B-segment crossover market when it does arrive here, with the Peugeot 2008 already on sale and the Ford EcoSport launching later this month. Which would you pick?

    Japanese-market Honda Vezel at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show

  • Tesla and Panasonic collaborating on battery factory


    Tesla Motors and Panasonic have announced that they will be joining forces to build a large-scale battery manufacturing facility in the United States. To be known as a Gigafactory, the plant will enable Tesla to continuously reduce the cost of long-range battery packs and manufacture them in a volume that will allow the company to meet its vision of advancing mass market electric vehicles.

    As a principal partner, Panasonic will utilise half of the manufacturing space to build lithium-ion cells and will invest in the equipment, machinery and other manufacturing tools required based on mutual approval. Tesla will then take these cells and assemble battery modules and packs, which, along with key suppliers producing the required precursor materials, will occupy the other half of the facility.

    The carmaker will also prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities at the site, with Reno, Nevada reportedly being the company’s first choice as a location. Both Tesla and Panasonic will continue deliberations on the implementation of the joint venture, including sales, operations and investment.


    The plant will be producing battery packs for Tesla’s upcoming entry-level model, the Model 3. To meet the expected demand, the company will continue to purchase battery cells from Panasonic’s factories in Japan.

    Optimised manufacturing processes driven by economies of scale previously impossible to achieve of will help lower costs. Furthermore, the plant will manufacture cells designed specifically for electric vehicles both in size and function, co-locate suppliers on-site to eliminate packaging, transportation and duty costs and be built at a location with lower utility and operating expenses, all of which will save yet more money.

    The Gigafactory will produce cells, modules and packs for Tesla’s electric vehicles – including its upcoming entry-level model, the Model 3 – and for the stationary storage market. It is planned to produce 35GWh of cells and 50GWh of packs annually by 2020, and is projected to employ about 6,500 people by 2020.


    “The Gigafactory represents a fundamental change in the way large-scale battery production can be realised,” said Tesla’s chief technical officer and co-founder JB Straubel. “Not only does the Gigafactory enable capacity needed for the Model 3 but it sets the path for a dramatic reduction in the cost of energy storage across a broad range of applications.”

    “We have already engaged in various collaborative projects with Tesla toward the popularization of electric vehicles,” added Panasonic’s executive vice president Yoshihiko Yamada. “I believe that once we are able to manufacture lithium-ion battery cells at the Gigafactory, we will be able to accelerate the expansion of the electric vehicle market.”

  • Hyundai i20 – second-gen B-segment hatch leaked


    Indian website has scored pictures of the second-generation Hyundai i20 completely undisguised ahead of the B-segment hatchback’s expected debut at the Paris Motor Show in October.

    From the looks of it, Hyundai is moving to a more matured, Euro-inspired design, with a neat slit of a grille connecting the large, swept-back headlights. Just below it is an enormous trapezoidal air intake underlined by a smaller inlet and flanked by large fog lights.

    download (1)

    At the rear, there are blacked-out C-pillars, slim tail lights and a number plate recess on the bumper. Incidentally, the tail lights on this particular unit are different from the L-shaped ones on a prototype spotted in Europe, so this could be a model unique to India, most probably a longer “Grand” model in the vein of the Grand i10.

    The new Hyundai i20 is expected to make use of the i10‘s 1.0 litre three-cylinder and 1.25 litre four-cylinder engines, as well as the current i20‘s 1.4 litre petrol and – in India at least – turbodiesel engines. An N-badged hot hatch is also reportedly on the cards.

  • BMW spending 9 million euros to boost Thai output


    To meet growing demand in Thailand, BMW is spending nine million euros (RM38.6 million) to expand its plant and upgrade its logistics system in the Land of Smiles, Bangkok Post reports.

    “The new investment will go mainly to expand production of passenger cars and motorcycles at Rayong’s Amata City Industrial Estate,” said Jeffrey Gaudiano, MD of BMW Manufacturing Thailand.

    The Munich-based company plans to up production of passenger cars to 10,000 units in 2015 from 8,880 this year, with the motorcycle division set to churn out 1,000 units next year. Rayong is the only location in BMW’s global network with full operations for the group’s three brands – BMW, MINI and BMW Motorrad.

    The Thai-assembled BMW F 800 R and F 800 GS are now in Malaysia, priced from RM63,800

    Rayong rolls out the BMW 5-Series, 7-Series, X1 and X3 models. Next to join the Thai CKD list are the 3-Series, 3-Series Gran Turismo and the X5. Production of the Mini Countryman started last August.

    On the motorcycle front, BMW assembles the F 800 R and F 800 GS models in Thailand. Both the 798 cc parallel-twin bikes are now available in Malaysia, at lower price tags of RM63,800 and RM73,900, respectively. There’s also a Low Seat Variant of the adventure bike (the GS), and that goes for RM76,900. BMW Motorrad shifted 400 units in Thailand last year, a 38% growth.

  • New 2015 Mazda 2 Skyactiv spied testing in Thailand


    The new Mazda 2 has been spotted in Thailand, which could mean that production of the B-segment car will be starting soon. The 2015 Mazda 2 was only revealed two weeks ago, so this sighting comes very soon. It’s a rear shot of a white five-door hatchback (sedan not confirmed or revealed yet, but could look like this) with the Mazda and Skyactiv badges under black tape.

    A faithful reproduction of the Hazumi concept from Geneva 2014, the new Mazda 2 (Demio in Japan) will come with 1.3 and 1.5 litre SkyActiv-G petrols, and a new 1.5 litre SkyActiv-D diesel. Expect SkyActiv manual and auto gearboxes, both with six speeds, plus MZD Connect and the i-Activsense suite of safety systems.

    The new five-door hatch grows in all dimensions except width, which remains at 1,695 mm. Wheelbase has jumped 80 mm to 2,570 mm, length is up 160 mm to 4,060 mm, and height enjoys a 25 mm leap to 1,500 mm. Compared to the Honda Jazz and Ford Fiesta, the M2 is longer overall, and from wheel to wheel.

    The new 2 will come to Malaysia either towards the end of this year (according to a research report) or sometime in the first half of 2015. We have plenty of material for you to pore over, from comparo charts to videos and hi-res pics. Click here to view them all.

  • Proton Design Competition 2014 – we take a behind-the-scenes look at how a Proton is designed

    Have you ever wondered what it’s like to design a car from the ground up? Well, today’s your lucky day, because was recently granted exclusive access to the innards of Proton’s design studio to provide you with a glimpse of a car’s development from the initial sketch all the way to the final model.

    Nestled within the confines of the company’s Shah Alam complex, the Proton Design Studio is sprawling, modern facility, much more relaxed and informal than your usual office atmosphere. It utilises a great deal of advanced technologies to help bring the designers’ ideas to life, such as a virtual reality auditorium, milling machines and several high-performance workstations connected to huge Wacom Cintiq drawing displays.

    Of course, every project starts with a brief, which determines the basic parameters for the product, such as body style and number of seats. From there, all the designers are asked to put whatever ideas they have onto paper (or their computer displays) and are given pretty much carte blanche to really get those creative juices flowing, unrestrained by practical restrictions like interior space or powertrain packaging.

    Such restrictions are saved for later, where the stylists are required to translate their initial ideas into realistic renderings that follow the interior, powertrain and drivetrain packaging that has been set. The goal is to create images that are representative of what the actual car will look like in real life.

    The designs are then pitted against each other through presentations with a cross-functional team, a group of people from different departments such as engineering, testing and marketing, who will then shortlist these designs based on what meets all their needs. Eventually, the team will end up with up with a handful of designs on which further development and refinement will commence.

    The surviving designs get modelled in 3D in stages, each with an increasing amount of detail. The first 3D model, called a C-class model, is a fairly rough model with no engineering or manufacturing considerations and is done purely to visualise the design in a three-dimensional space. The next step up is a B-class model, which is more detailed and includes some input from the engineers.

    Both these models are built using a 3D modelling software called Alias, whereas the final model, an A-class model, is done using CATIA, a computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software. This model is fully detailed, complete with considerations for manufacturing processes such as tooling and draft angles, and is virtually production-ready.

    The resulting A-class model is then imported into a rendering software in order to visualise the car in realistic lighting and settings. The team uses Bunkspeed, a software that is capable of rendering photorealistic visuals in real time. The output is so realistic, in fact, that the company used Bunkspeed renderings as press photos of the Suprima S!

    Indeed, watching a lifelike virtual model of the Suprima being rendered in real time and being able to change colour and materials of each part on the fly was an eye-opener for someone like me, who is used to having to wait for several hours for a 3D model to be rendered, and having to restart the process for every angle or after making modifications the model.

    Next week, we will look at the rest of the process, including the selection of colours and materials, as well as the final hard model that is signed off for production. And of course, don’t forget to join the Proton Design Competition 2014 – the deadline has now been extended by a week to August 18 – with your vision of a Proton city car in the year 2020!

  • Ssangyong X100 B-segment SUV – production XLV concept to debut new 1.6 litre engine family


    The production version of the SsangYong XLV Concept that was showcased at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show will be unveiled in 2015. Word is that an unveiling could happen as early as January.

    The production B-segment SUV – rumoured to be called the X100 – will take the fight to other B-segment SUVs in the market like the Ford EcoSport, the Nissan Juke, the Renault Captur and the Peugeot 2008. Ssangyong have confirmed that the production XLV will debut a new family of SsangYong-designed 1.6 litre petrol and diesel four-cylinder engines.

    Measuring 4,430 mm long, 1,845 mm wide and 1,600 mm tall, it is slightly longer than the competition, and with good reason too. The XLV concept had three-row seating, with seats configurable in either a 2-3-2 or 2-2-3 arrangement, thanks to a middle seat that can slide between the second and third row.

  • Ford EcoSport being previewed at SDAC showrooms – 1.5L Trend and Titanium variants, RM96k-RM104k


    Although it hasn’t been officially launched yet, the Ford EcoSport is now being previewed to the public at SDAC showrooms, so if you’re interested in a new B-segment SUV, you may want to head there to check it out this weekend. We dropped by this afternoon to snap some photos of the EcoSport just for you.

    The new Thai-assembled EcoSport – which made its ASEAN debut last year in Bangkok – will be available here in two trim levels, both powered by a 1.5 litre Ti-VCT engine mated to a six-speed Powershift dual-clutch gearbox, driving the front wheels – the same configuration as found in the current B299 Fiesta 1.5.

    Official pricing hasn’t been released, but the EcoSport Trend is expected to retail for about RM96k, while the higher-spec EcoSport Titanium will go for about RM104k.

    Click to enlarge the brochure.

    Full specs can be seen in the brochure scans above, but we’ll simplify it for you. The Trend trim level starts off with two airbags, ESP stability control, manual air-conditioning, a six-speaker Ford Sync infotainment system, steering wheel audio controls, tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, fabric seats and 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/60R16 tyres.

    The rear seat bench can be folded down in a 60:40 split, and they can tumble forward to maximise the luggage area, which increases from 362 litres to 705 litres with the rear seats tumbled forward.

    The EcoSport Titanium ups the airbag count to seven, including a knee airbag. The driver seat gets adjustable lumbar, and a centre armrest is added on. The variant gets a single-zone automatic climate control system, and there are also auto lights and wipers as well as a sunroof.


    Seats are upgraded to leather, and there’s also leather on the gear lever and the steering wheel. The alloys are also 16-inch units with the same tyre size, but feature a different design. The Titanium also features keyless entry and push-start ignition. You also get an additional 12V power socket at the side of the rear seat. Exterior-wise, there’s a bit more chrome here and there, such as on the fog lamp surround.

    We’re told that the Ford EcoSport will be officially launched sometime in the second half of August 2014, so we’ll get the official prices then. Word is that the 1.0 EcoBoost version will eventually be introduced here, when production of the six-speed PowerShift auto variant begins (currently, Thai production only builds it in five-speed manual transmission guise, for the Australian market).

    In the meanwhile, read our review of the Ford EcoSport from our Thai drive of the SUV.

    GALLERY: Ford EcoSport 1.5 Trend

    GALLERY: Ford EcoSport 1.5 Titanium


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