The new national car project (NNCP) has been a big talking point since prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad mooted it in June, and Astro Awani reports that the he is standing firm behind his brainchild.

At a press conference during the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea on Saturday, the premier claimed that the automotive industry will be the driving force behind other sectors of the economy, particularly engineering. “A car is a kind of catalyst for other things. If you want to learn manufacturing of certain products, engineering-wise, you have to start with a car,” he said.

Mahathir added that Malaysia’s past national car projects have allowed it to develop new skills that it would not have obtained otherwise. “To make a car, you have to make 4,000 different components and then put them together. It’s not easy, but we have mastered it in a very short time. Now we can design, produce the prototypes, test, do the clay models, everything. Even the engines, we can produce ourselves.

“Nowadays when you design a car, you don’t draw on a piece of paper. You use technology to design, look around, look inside, see every angle, place it before a building to see how it looks like,” he said. “Today, our people can design those things. If we didn’t have a motor car project, I doubt whether we could have mastered all the new technologies with regard to design.”

The new national car is due to enter production in 2020, with a prototype expected to be ready by early next year. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has recently said that it has received over 20 proposals from the private sector for the project, which finance minister Lim Guan Eng said will not use public funds.