Here’s an interesting aside from the launch of the Lexus ES this morning in Kuala Lumpur – UMW Toyota intimated it was mulling the idea of local assembly for the Toyota Camry Hybrid. It’s not the first time this talk has come about – earlier in the year, it was reported that the company was in talks with Toyota over the possibility of setting up a CKD hybrid production plant here in Malaysia, but no model was specifically mentioned previously.

Today’s announcement was made by the company’s deputy chairman Takashi Hibi, who added that the Camry Hybrid could be just slightly more expensive than the Camry 2.5V. The pricing – and indeed, the plan, of course – is pursuant to how the incentives for hybrid vehicles shape up past the end of this year.

At present, hybrid cars with engines displacing under 2,000 cc and electric cars enjoy full exemption on both import and excise duties, but the current set of tax incentives – which were first announced in Budget 2011 and then extended in Budget 2012 – is set to end on Dec 31, 2013.

It was reported last week that the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) was hoping to see the tax incentives given to hybrid cars extended beyond the current deadline. Ever since full duty exemption was given, the hybrid car segment has seen significant growth, led by Toyota and Honda.

camry hybrid 1

In 2010, just 332 hybrids were sold in the country. In 2011, this jumped to 8,334 units, and last year, an 84% increase came about with 15,355 units sold, of which 8,712 were Hondas, 5,653 were Toyotas, 979 were Lexuses and 11 were Porsches. Meanwhile, in the first seven months of 2013, 8,571 hybrids were sold in the country.

The upcoming Budget on October 25 should see the continuance of exemptions for hybrids, but rumours abound that the current application is likely to be revised, with the possibility that import/excise duty exemptions will be granted to locally-assembled hybrids as opposed to that in effect now.

Our previous report mentioned that the government might still dole out incentives, but in a different package. In a recent session with the Malaysian Automotive Institute (MAI), we were told that the upcoming revised NAP would see manufacturing licenses and pre-packaged customised incentives given for energy efficient vehicle (EEV) production and investment.

Which would then fit into the scheme of things for the Camry Hybrid, which never arrived here previously because its engine displacement runs well above the 2.0 litre limit ceiling covered by the current tariff scheme – it’s powered by a 2.5 litre 2AR-FXE Atkinson cycle unit, the same unit as found in the Lexus ES 300h. Currently, the only hybrid being assembled here is the Honda Jazz Hybrid.

The answers soon, then, hopefully, and also that of the much-awaited revised National Automotive Policy (NAP), which was supposed to have come about for some time now.