Finance minister Lim Guan Eng has reiterated that the government will not sink any funds into the proposed new national car project (NNCP). The project, championed by prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, requires huge capital outlays and as such, it needs the involvement of the private sector, he said, reported by Bernama.

However, the proposed NNCP can benefit from the government’s allocation for research and development (R&D) activities, as enjoyed by local players Proton and Perodua.

“To date, the government has no such allocation (to invest in building a third national car) under Budget 2019 except for R&D. What is wrong in us carrying out R&D if it could be used by Proton or DRB-Hicom…not necessarily for the third national car.

“To build the third national car will require investments running into billions of US dollars, not just RM10 or RM20 million. This we have to take cognition…for those who are attempting to make frivolous claims, we hope they do not make assumptions based on inaccurate and baseless information,” Lim told reporters in Butterworth on Saturday.

He said that in reference to several quarters including the opposition, which accused the government of investing in a third national car project, which is not universally popular among Malaysians. Lim added that R&D is something which should be encouraged and the government encourages any party to carry out such activities to make Malaysia an innovative country.

At the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea last month, Mahathir hailed the automotive industry as a driving force for 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. 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,” he said.

“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. 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 PM added.

To recap, in October, entrepreneur development minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof announced the timelines for the NNCP – the new national car’s name will be announced by the end of this year, while the prototype for the NNCP model is expected to be ready by early next year, ahead of a 2020 roll out. The car is expected to feature semi-autonomous capabilities and advanced safety features, while remaining affordable.

The ministry of international trade and industry (MITI) has received over 20 proposals for the NNCP.