(Adds details on the policy, comments from Toyota Thailand,
* Malaysia to let foreign auto makers produce small hybrids
* Aims to export 200,000 eco-friendly cars by 2020, create
* Mazda, Perodua pledge $682 mln to build plants
* Toyota Thailand says boosting investment in Malaysia is
By Yantoultra Ngui
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 Malaysia will let foreign
companies such as Japan's Mazda and Honda make small hybrid cars
in Southeast Asia's No.3 economy, which is competing with
Thailand and Indonesia to be the regional hub for low-emission
Malaysia, which until now only let foreign companies make
larger cars, plans to offer new production licences, grants and
lower taxes, just as flooding and political instability thwart
Thailand's push to boost output and demand of small,
Malaysia - known for beleagured national car Proton Holdings
Bhd - wants to develop the auto market as it works toward its
goal of raising the economy to developed status by 2020.
By that time, it aims to export 200,000 energy-efficient
cars, achieve $3 billion of car component shipments and create
150,000 jobs, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa
Mohamed said on Monday when announcing the country's automotive
So far, Mazda Motor Corp and local manufacturer
Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua (Perodua) have pledged 2.25 billion
ringgit ($682.44 million) for investment in energy-efficient
vehicle production, Mustapa said.
"We hope this National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2014 can
enable us to become the energy efficient vehicle hub in ASEAN in
the future," Mustapa said, referring to the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations.
"We hope to raise total production volume to 1.25 million
vehicles by 2020 from some 0.57 million vehicles."
The new policy opens the way for foreign auto makers to
produce gasoline and battery powered passenger cars with engine
sizes of 1.8 litres or less, Mustapa said.
This would immediately benefit Honda Motor Co Ltd,
which already has a hybrid car manufacturing plant in Malaysia,
as well compatriot Nissan Motor Co Ltd, which has
production facilities and a distribution network for
conventional gasoline-powered cars.
Toyota Motor Corp said Malaysia's attractiveness as
a hub for energy-efficient vehicles is limited.
Boosting investment in Malaysia is not easy, said Kyoichi
Tanada, president of Toyota's Thai unit, said at a separate news
conference in Bangkok on Monday.
"Thailand is still in a better position given the size of
Toyota sold about 90,000 to 100,000 vehicles in Malaysia
last year compared with 445,000 vehicles in Thailand.
Overall, around 652,000 vehicles were sold in Malaysia last
year, over half of which were from Perodua and DRB-Hicom
unit Proton, government officials have said.
That figure is roughly half of Thailand's 1.33 million
vehicles and Indonesia's 1.22 million vehicles.
Malaysia was Southeast Asia's automotive hub before being
overtaken in the early 2000s by Thailand, which has followed a
more open policy toward foreign car makers setting up factories
and selling cars domestically.
($1 = 3.2970 Malaysian ringgit)
(Additional reporting by Manunphattr Dhanananphorn in BANGKOK;
Writing by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Christopher Cushing)