Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that Malaysia will be seeking assistance from Japanese automakers with regards to its potential third national car project. These will include the likes of Nissan and Toyota, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Speaking to reporters in Fukouka on the sidelines of a four-day working visit to Japan, Mahathir said that accessing Japanese automotive expertise is “essential” to manufacturing cars to modern standards. “Some members of my delegation will be visiting Daihatsu, but we have one company [that] has written to Nissan and Toyota to seek cooperation with them,” he explained, although he did not disclose the local company’s name.

In June, Mahathir had mooted the aspiration to start another national car project during his visit to the 24th Nikkei Conference in Japan, and the proposed project looks to be working its way ever closer to reality. Last weekend, entrepreneur development minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof revealed that the project is supposedly set to get underway by 2020.

Mahathir had earlier said the project would look to Japan for some cooperation initially. “Like the first national car (brand), which started with only 18% local content (and cooperation from) Mitsubishi Motor, we were able to master the whole process of building the car, from design to clay-model and test cars.”

“Today, modern technology is based more on sensors and other things. We need to acquire that also. But initially, we want just to build a car first for the Malaysian market, and then for the world market,” he had said.

The subject coninues to be a hot topic of discussion. Earlier this week, Keadilan vice-president Rafizi Ramli questioned the need for such a project and urged that the matter be reconsidered. This sentiment has been echoed by many parties, who say that Malaysia’s annual vehicle sales of just under 600,000 units does not represent the economies of scale needed for production