It cannot be denied that many Malaysian drivers love modifying their vehicles. But this is not necessarily limited to aftermarket accessories.

A type of modification often seen on Malaysian roads is the rebadging of various cars from its original (local) brand or model. Manufacturers produce cars in various models and brands for different markets, but based on a single chassis type, which leads to the possibility of changing a vehicle’s facade or bodywork to resemble one from a different country.

One of the best examples of this type of modification is the Perodua Myvi, that has a counterpart in the Japanese domestic market, the Toyota Passo. Another example is the Proton Wira, that shares its DNA with the Mitsubishi Lancer, and the list goes on.

These types of modifications are common, but are they illegal? Our colleague from’s Bahasa Malaysia section, Hazril Hafiz, posed this question to Datuk Ir. Haji Mohamad Dalib, director of the Road Transport Department (JPJ) automotive engineering department.

“Every vehicle registered in Malaysia has its own identity. Its manufacturer, the model type, the design and other factors,” he said. “Everything that is approved during the Vehicle Type Approval (VTA) process for a vehicle to be driven on Malaysian roads cannot be modified to any whim and fancy,” added Mohamad.

What is meant by a vehicle’s identity? There are two factors that are emphasised – the logo or badge of the manufacturer as well as the model in question, and the vehicle’s body panels. “If the owner changes the brand logo of their vehicle, for example, from Perodua to Daihatsu, or Toyota, that is illegal,” he clarified.

The JPJ director also gave examples from more recent car models, such as the Proton Perdana, which is a rebadged eighth-generation Honda Accord. “Even though we acknowledge the Perdana uses the Honda Accord as a basis, if the brand logo or model is changed to Honda Accord, it is an offence,” he added.

Some may ask, what is the actual offence being committed? He explained the offence is, “changing a vehicle’s identity without permission,” which attracts an instant summons. This also includes other models which fall under the same category, such as the Proton Inspira.

Thus, as a precautionary measure, if any car owner wants to rebadge their vehicle, it would be wise to refer to the JPJ beforehand, before making any sort of modification, even for something as simple as changing a car’s logo. For further reference, please refer to our earlier articles on the installation of over-sized rear wings and HID lighting.