The vehicle that will debut the new national car project (NNCP) in 2020 is expected to feature semi-autonomous capabilities and advanced safety features, while remaining affordable, according to Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (Might) president and CEO Datuk Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman.

Speaking to reporters at today’s briefing on the NNCP, he said that the project will attempt to incorporate new technological innovations inspired by the younger generation, which the organisation expects will form the primary buyer base for the new car when it arrives on the market.

He said that a survey carried out among 300-400 students from northern states on what they deemed as the three most important qualities in the vehicle’s design was that it incorporate autonomous driving, advanced safety and be affordable.

Might CEO Datuk Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman.

He explained that this was in line with the government’s vision of how future mobility would shape up, with connectivity and tech driving the way forward.

“We are actually coming into the fourth industrial revolution and there are a lot of new technologies that are going to be introduced, such as artificial intelligence and advanced materials. So we need a new platform to bring together all these technologies that are coming up,” he said.

“In the future, cars will be connected with every single thing in the environment. Cars will be able to ‘talk’ to buildings, able to read traffic signs, have car-to-car and car-to-car connectivity,” he said. Mention was made that Cyberjaya is being looked at as a potential real-world testing ground for the vehicle and its associated tech when trials begin.

He added that the new platform can be developed by a country like Malaysia, which has all the necessary ingredients to do so. “We have companies that can master these technologies, we have the raw materials, and we have the experience,” he stated.

It was announced at the briefing that the vehicle name will be revealed by the end of this year, and that the first prototype will be ready in early 2019, with a 2020 roll-out on the cards. However, according to Mohd Yusoff, the finalised body-style has not yet been decided on, though modularity will ensure easy selection.

“The segment that the new vehicle will be positioned in is undecided, but it will be built on a modular platform, so there’s no issue in adapting it into a sedan, SUV or MPV,” he explained.

The choice of powertrain was also not revealed, but the suggestions were there that the hybrid or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) path is being looked at. The idea that it could potentially be a battery electric vehicle seems a bit of a long shot at present, if affordability is looked at as a defining parameter. There is also the possibility that a range extender could be the choice.

To the question of whether two years was enough to develop the NNCP as well as its supporting infrastructure, entrepreneur development minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof said that in this case, it was.

“If we follow the traditional ways of making cars, then yes, two years is too short. But we are looking at disruptive development and marketing. Other carmakers take a longer time because they have baggage. We don’t. So we can do things quicker, better,” he explained.

Entrepreneur development minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof.

From a manufacturing viewpoint, he said that the project would utilise existing manufacturing infrastructures to assemble the car, again bringing the to-market timeframe down. “There are existing assembly facilities that we can use,” he said.

Mohd Yusoff shared the same sentiment. “We are not starting from zero. so the timeframe can be shortened. We are still studying how short a time is needed before we can produce a car – we are putting 2020 as a target, but it can be earlier,” he stated.

Despite it being dubbed a national car project, the vehicle will also be aimed at export markets in the Asean regions, and discussions on this front are ongoing, although no specifics were mentioned.