If you’ve been waiting for the arrival of Perodua’s new compact SUV, you’ll now have to wait until 2021 before you can get up close and personal with one, because the as-yet-unnamed D55L won’t be making its market debut this year.

At a press conference following a Perodua vendor certification event hosted by Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute (MARii) yesterday, we asked Perodua president and CEO Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad for an update on the anticipated arrival of the new B-segment SUV, and whether the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had altered the timeline of its introduction.

The reply intimated that it had, and what was surprising was the indication that it was never scheduled to appear this year, despite word on the grapevine in January having suggested that the new SUV was set to be launched sometime in the second half of 2020, with all previous indicators pointing to this.

“I cannot say when, but even in our original plan it wasn’t going to be launched this year. However, as a result of the movement control order (MCO) and so on, we have to re-look at the schedule, and at this moment we have not decided on a launch timeline yet,” he replied.

It could well be that the pandemic and resulting lockdown a few months back has interrupted or delayed plans to complete its enhancement of its manufacturing facilities as scheduled. At its 2019 full-year review presentation in January, the company said it planned to invest RM1.06 billion, double what it spent in 2019, on plant modernisation, building expansion as well as in preparation for a “future model,” which is expected to be the SUV.

The unexpected increased demand for its current models as a result of the government’s sales tax exemption, which is in place until the end of the year, may also be another reason that the D55L’s introduction has been moved to a later date. Presently, the national carmaker is assembling around 25,000 units a month on average, which is almost 98 to 99% of its production capacity.

Zainal said that this would continue right into December to meet demand. From a business perspective, the prioritising makes perfect sense, with the rush to get as many cars out before the tax holiday ends on December 31 the right way to go, more so with the waiting period already stretching to two months at present.

The D55L will be a close relative of the Daihatsu Rocky and Toyota Raize twins, which have been on sale in Japan since late last year. The JDM offerings measure just 3,995 mm long and 1,695 mm wide and are powered by 1.0 litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 98 PS and 140 Nm of torque, paired with a CVT.

So, those expecting the much-anticipated showdown between the new P2 SUV and the Proton X50 will have to wait until 2021 before that materialises. The Proton SUV will arrive on the scene first, for sure – its appearance may be just around the corner.


GALLERY: Daihatsu Rocky, 2019 Tokyo Motor Show