The company that will lead the new national car project (NNCP) is expected to be announced at the national development council (MPM) meeting on January 28. The meeting, which will be chaired by prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is also expected to list the selection of local vendors that will support the project’s production operations, Berita Harian reports.

“During the meeting, the private companies that will spearhead the production of the new national car is expected to be announced by the chairman (Dr Mahathir),” Malaysian industry-government group for high technology (MIGHT) CEO Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman told the publication.

He said that the production of the new national car would not necessarily involve the construction of a new plant, but will maximise existing facilities, expertise and technology from the selected companies. He added that more than 10 private companies have submitted proposals for the project.

Mohd Yusoff said that the concept of production by mobilising local energy and expertise is parallel to MPM’s goal of empowering the entire ecosystem, including vendors and human resource development. Hence, he said, the third national car project could ‘live’ without funds from the government, as the leading companies would create a consortium with other private investors and could reduce business risks.

“Among the investors who expressed interest in the production of the NNCP is Sime Darby Auto Engineering (SDAE). Also expressing interest is SilTerra Malaysia, based in Kulim. The company has expertise in microchip production, so we try to maximize existing capacity,” he said.

“The NNCP will widen the network of automotive systems, through connectivity with development information. The futuristic technology and design of this vehicle will be a significant difference over existing models,” he said.

Commenting on the likely choice of a hybrid model, Mohd Yusoff said that it was in line with the projected maintenance and fuel cost forecasts by 2025, by which time there will be no difference between internal combustion engine (ICE) and hybrid vehicles. It was previously reported that the NNCP will also incorporate semi-autonomous functionality in the expected model.

He said with the expected reduction in the prices of battery and hybrid components in the next six years, local automotive companies should proactively move towards development in those areas. “Hence, it is not just about the production of cars but on the development of the overall ecosystem and relevant sectors,” he said.

It was reported last week that Malaysia plans to start the manufacture of 18650 battery cells by 2020, which will make it the first country in ASEAN to produce lithium-ion batteries for automotive applications.