To boost sales overseas, Malaysian vehicle manufacturers need to price their cars more competitively and increase quality, said International Trade and Industry (MITI) minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

“If the pricing is competitive and the quality is good, people will buy. We cannot force people to buy our cars,” Mustapa told the Dewan Negara in response to a question by Datuk Adam Hamid.

“To be honest, we have not fully succeeded in the vehicle industry in terms of Asean trade,” he added. The senator had asked if local vehicle manufacturers could take advantage of the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC) to increase sales, according to a report from The Star.

It was revealed that of the 20,000 locally manufactured cars exported last year, 7,000 were Mazdas. Most went north of the border to Thailand, with a small amount of Perodua cars sold to Indonesia and other Asean countries. Mazda makes the CX-5 SUV in Kedah, while Perodua exports the Myvi to Indonesia as the Daihatsu Sirion.

CX-5-export-02Mazda exported 7,000 units from its Kedah plant last year, taking advantage of the Asean free trade area

“Malaysia manufactured 650,000 cars while Thailand manufactured two million cars and sold half of them overseas. This is because unlike Malaysia, Thailand has an open policy where incentives and ownership is given to the companies, and there is no limit to ownership,” Mustapa said.

Malaysia and Thailand took different automotive paths. While Malaysia embarked on a national car project, the Land of Smiles opened up to foreign manufacturers and has become known as the Detroit of the East, with Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Ford and General Motors, among others, making our northern neighbour their regional manufacturing hub.

Should this two routes be made into a case study, there would be plus and minus points for both. We know what Proton chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad thinks about foreign brands and competition, but what are your thoughts?