DRB-Hicom launched the development plan of Automotive Hi-Tech Valley (AHTV) at Tanjung Malim this evening, marking the start of a “high impact major project” that the group says will boost the national automotive industry.

The launch was officiated by prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Also present were Perak MB Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad, finance minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz and transport minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong.

The emphasis will be on new technologies and systems in the automotive industries, namely electrification, artificial intelligence, autonomous tech and advanced connectivity. Tanjung Malim is the home of Proton, which is majority owned by DRB-Hicom, and the group’s vision is for this area to be an automotive industry hub for the ASEAN region.

“The development of AHTV is aimed at embracing the changing landscape of the world’s automotive industry with an integrated ecosystem that will be a catalyst to revitalise domestic automotive sector in line with the direction of the National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2020,” DRB-Hicom said in a statement.

“This is to ensure that Malaysia’s automotive industry continues to be on par, if not more advanced, than in neighbouring countries. With the right systems, infrastructure and stakeholder support in place, AHTV will be well positioned to attract investments from industry players in the region, spurring the growth and capability of the local automotive industry,” the conglomerate added.

At the ceremony, the PM witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between DRB-Hicom and the Perak state government to jointly identify suitable additional land in the area to be earmarked for AHTV.

Today, the area surrounding Proton’s Tanjung Malim plant measures 4,000 acres, with most of it already occupied by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, existing vendors, commercial premises and residential properties. The additional land will be for AHTV, which plans include a research university.

Another MoU was signed between DRB-Hicom and Geely Holding Group, the two major shareholders of Proton. This one is to jointly develop AHTV and collaborate to identify vendors and investors to the hub. The parties say that the involvement of Geely is a boost for AHTV, an impetus for auto and component manufacturers from China to invest in production facilities in AHTV.

“Geely Holding is ready to participate and support where required. This project symbolises the growing economic and trade cooperation between Malaysia and China. With strong private and government support, other foreign players from across the spectrum will be encouraged to invest in AHTV as well, especially with the right infrastructure and support in place,” said CEO of Geely Holding Group, Daniel Li Donghui via videolink.

“We look forward to contributing to the success of this project, creating mutual benefits and synergies for the people, the businesses and the economies of Malaysia and China,” he added.

DRB-Hicom says that AHTV has the potential as a gateway to ASEAN and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) markets for companies that are based here. Currently, there are 17 vendors operating within the Tanjong Malim area. By the way, Geely has plans for ASEAN – its goal is for Proton to be the number one automaker in Malaysia, and top three in the ASEAN region. Proton currently exports to Pakistan, an OIC member.

The company says that in its development stage (no timeline given), some 370,000 job opportunities are expected to be created at AHTV. Once completed, Phase 1 of the hub will offer more than 160,000 job opportunities, benefiting both the state of Perak and the country.