Take heed of Tesla for new national car idea: Experts

PETALING JAYA: Experts believe Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should take heed of international automaker Tesla if the plan for a new national car is to be realised.

While the idea of another national car does not bode well with many Malaysians, two analysts argued that Mahathir's proposal was to be welcomed, but said the country should move away from producing conventional cars like it did with Proton previously.

Economist Prof Dr Barjoyai Bardai said Malaysia should explore new opportunities in the automotive industry, by capitalising on its previous experience in producing cars and the expertise of other countries in the region.

"I think we have been very fortunate that we have over 30 years' experience in car production. But now we need to think bigger. We can be producing electric cars only, like Tesla.

"Of course there is the challenge of cost and production. But if we can find the technology to produce good batteries for the cars at a cheaper price, then that would be welcomed.

"Another possibility we can venture into is producing autonomous cars or even those based on drone technologies," he told theSun today.

"People may argue why cars and not other products as they can be difficult to produce. But we have made that attempt before through Proton, and we did well, so we can capitalise our expertise but by using them in other advanced technologies," he added.

Mahathir had, on Monday, expressed interest to start a new national car project with partners in the region that were able to produce quality and marketable cars.

Malaysian Future Foundation founder Mohd Radzi Abd Latif said the idea behind a national car should also not be seen as purely a commercial venture, and that it has to be looked on the perspective of science and technology.

He argued that there was so much innovation and technological challenge behind any commercial car manufacturing ventures, including driverless cars and electric-powered vehicles.

"Tesla founder Elon Musk even sent a Tesla car to orbit outer space to prove its durability and now talks about producing flying cars. He dares to dream and what about us?

"We are still debating whether we should have a national car or otherwise. Let us regard the national car project as a breakthrough venture that aims at revitalising Malaysian economic growth focused on a scientific and technological innovation-based industry," he said in a statement.