The Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) says exports in the automotive sector are expected to grow this year, eclipsing a record year in 2019 in which RM15.45 billion was recorded in exports related to the sector. This year, Malaysia aims to achieve RM17.2 billion in exports, according to MARii CEO Datuk Madani Sahari.

Speaking at a briefing on the outlook for the local automotive industry on Tuesday, he said that the target, which was projected before the Covid-19 virus outbreak came about, remains achievable barring a severe pandemic. He added that it was too early to say if the target will not be achieved.

In 2019, parts and components contributed to the largest chunk in exports at RM13.7 billion, an improvement over the RM12.1 billion achieved in 2018. Exports of remanufactured parts and components also recorded an increase to RM722 million in 2019, a continuous growth year on year, while vehicle exports totaled RM1.03 billion.

This year, the export of parts and components is expected to grow to RM15 billion, while that of remanufactured parts is forecast to increase to RM1 million. As for CBU vehicle exports, this will increase marginally to RM1.2 billion.

Madani said that aside from exports, the industry had a strong overall performance last year, demonstrating an increase in areas such as EEV penetration rate as well as in domestic sales and production, and the rate is expected to grow again in 2020.

Last year, total industry volume (TIV) and total production volume (TPV) stood at 604,287 units and 571,632 units respectively, and TIV for 2020 is set to increase to 610,330 units, while TPV is also expected to achieve growth, to 577,348 units.

The continued growth of energy efficient vehicles (EEV) was also highlighted. Madani said that the EEV penetration rate last year reached 87.58% (529,256 units), its highest percentage since the classification was introduced in 2014, and in 2020 this is expected to hit 90%. The EEV list for 2019 stood at 103 vehicle models and 298 variants, a marked increase from the six models and 11 variants that were classified as such in 2014.

The only contraction expected this year wiil be in committed localisation, going down to RM6.29 billion from the RM8.53 billion managed in 2019. Elsewhere, Madani said that business productivity continued to improve in 2019, with 423 parts and component suppliers attaining Supply Chain Level 3 status and 63 companies obtaining the highest rating of Level 5, meaning they are capable of in-house product and process design.

The 2019 report card also stated that 1,000 workshops and dealers enhanced their business operations through the Workshop Transformation Programme (WTP) and Dealers Entrepreneurship Enhancement Programme (DEEP), and that a total of 65,388 new jobs were created in 2019 in both the manufacturing and aftermarket sector, representing a 26.4% increase from 2018.

This year, new investments worth RM1.43 have been secured, or which RM1 billion is targeted for services aligned with the recently-announced National Automotive Policy 2020 (NAP 2020). These include items related to the establishment of test and certification centres and development of next-generation vehicles (NxGVs) and mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).

An autonomous vehicle (AV) R&D centre and testbed, which will incorporate an EV Interoperability Centre (EVIC), is in the pipeline, and Madani said that the groundbreaking ceremony for the new facilities – which will be located in Cyberjaya – is expected to be carried out sometime next month.

The centre will allow all businesses in the mobility ecosystem to collectively design and validate products in a single location, in collaboration with all members that contribute to the design pool for autonomous driving and connected mobility tech.

The EVIC, meanwhile, will contain various facilities needed for the testing of NxGVs such as charging stations, smart grid integration solutions and various other infrastructures to accommodate related research and development in these areas.

Separately, work on an APEC autonomous vehicle guideline – in collaboration with the transport ministry – is slated to begin this year. Madani said that other developments expected in 2020 include a bus EV powertrain and the formation of the previously proposed venture in lithium-ion battery production.