Visit www.bhpetrol.com.my for more information.

It used to be that only models that could sell in sufficiently large volumes would be assembled locally, limiting the number of models that could enjoy preferential taxation policies. With BMW Group Malaysia, that meant just the 3-Series and 5-Series, with the 7-Series having been assembled briefly. But it’s different these days as the company keeps widening its BMW and MINI range of models assembled locally each year at its facility in Kedah.

The latest to be added is the X7 xDrive40i Pure Excellence, which is the model that the top of the SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) range. According to Hans de Visser, BMW Group Malaysia’s new Managing Director, this move to localise the assembly of one of our largest models in the BMW X range further demonstrates the company’s longstanding confidence in Malaysia’s potential as a regional hub for the luxury automobile segment.

“We are proud to be redefining the ‘Story of Progressive Luxury’ with a new addition to our portfolio of locally-assembled vehicles in Malaysia. The new model is also a testament to our commitment in the local market, as we further innovate our fleet of premium Sports Activity Vehicles to complement the most luxurious of lifestyles in Malaysia,” said Mr. de Visser.

Similar looks as CBU model
The locally-assembled X7 has a similar appearance to the model that was introduced two years ago, with the kidney grille creating a strong presence with its massive size. The massiveness is contrasted by slender BMW Laserlight headlights that can give strong illumination up to 600 metres ahead.

With an overall length of 5.1 metres and overall width of 2 metres, the X7 is a really big vehicle with an obviously spacious cabin containing three rows of seats. As a flagship variant, it features the opulent ‘Crafted Clarity’ handmade diamond-cut trim element and a range of standard equipment including a sport leather steering wheel and electrically adjustable comfort seats.

Large instrument panel with HUD
The BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which runs on the BMW Operating System 7.0, combines the fully digital, user-configurable 12.3-inch instrument cluster with an equally large central Control Display with touchscreen functionality. The most important information the driver would need while in motion is also projected on the windscreen by the Head-Up Display. And to minimise taking the hands away from the steering wheel, there’s the voice-controlled BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant and BMW Gesture Control.

Other highlights of the X7 include the Welcome Light Carpet feature, 5-zone air conditioning, a Harman Kardon Surround Sound System with 16 loudspeakers, and electric roller blinds for each window. The Rear Entertainment Professional system is also available while the spaciousness is further enhanced by the large panoramic sunroof complemented by large windows.

While the doors feature a soft-close, the tailgate is powered to open and close on its own without the owner having to even touch the door. When open, there’s easy access to a variable-volume luggage compartment with up to 2,120 litres available with the backrests folded down.

Those who have an iPhone can make use of the BMW Digital Key which not only locks/unlock the doors but can also program certain vehicle functions with limitations, in the event it is driven by someone other than the owner. There’s also wireless charging for compatible mobilephones as well as smartphone connectivity.

3-litre TwinPower Turbo engine
Under the long bonnet is a 3-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine which can produce up to 340 bhp/450 Nm. With an 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, the 2,320 kg SAV can get from 0 to 100 km/h in a claimed 6.1 seconds. Fuel consumption at its best is said to be 10.5 kms/litre which means a full 83-litre tank should give a range of almost 900 kms.

The xDrive badge means all four wheels are powered, not just for off-road driving but also to maximise traction, agility and handling stability (especially on slippery surfaces). Additionally, there is Dynamic Stability Control which takes note of the load on board as registered by the air suspension sensors and factors this data into braking modulation for optimum stopping performance. Executive Drive Pro with active roll stabilisation is included as standard.

Assisting the driver
The X7 driver can enjoy the drive while electronic systems help make mundane tasks easier. For example, the Reversing Assistant assists in safely manoeuvring out of a tight parking space, while the Driving Assistant has a comprehensive range of functions to help avoid accidents. The Active Cruise Control varies cruising speed to maintain a safe gap with other vehicles and can operate right down to standstill.

The X7 xDrive40i Pure Excellence will be in the showrooms from this weekend and if you already know you want one and it’s just a matter of choosing the colour, here are the exterior/interior choices available: Black Sapphire and Sophisto Grey exterior with Cognac Leather Vernasca upholstery; Phytonic Blue and Manhattan Metallic exteriors with all-Black design-perforated Leather Vernasca interior; and Leather Vernasca in Coffee with Black design perforations exclusively with the Mineral White exterior finish.

Monthly instalments from RM7,468
Priced from RM673,323.61 (excluding insurance), booking can be done via BMW Shop Online with just RM5,000 but due to a scheduled website maintenance at this time, the facility will only be from May 11, 2021 onwards. Those who use BMW Group Financial Services Malaysia can choose from various financing packages with monthly instalment plans starting from RM7,468 (terms and conditions apply).

BMW Group Malaysia was the leader in the premium automotive segment in 2020

Porsche to assemble in Malaysia? That’s the current topic among enthusiasts following a report in The Edge Weekly. The business website mentions that its source has said the investment has been approved by Malaysian authorities and that the assembly will be done at the Inokom factory in Kedah.

It would be quite an unusual development for the German sportscar maker as it has never built its cars outside Germany. It has two factories – the original one at Zuffenhausen and the 19-year old one in Leipzig. In its 2019 financial year, total production from the two factories was almost 275,000 vehicles.

Porsche has come a long way from the time it began making sportscars in the 1950s. Today, it has two factories supplying to the whole world – the original one from the 1950s in Zuffenhausen (below) and a second one in Leipzig (bottom), both in Germany.
Porsche builds its vehicles for the whole world at just two facrories – the original one from rhe 1950s in Zuffenhausen and a second one in Leipzig (below), both in Germany.

Porsche being a strong brand, demand for its products has always been good although the coronavirus pandemic which impacted the auto industry did result in a 12% decline in deliveries last year. In the first half of 2020, Porsche sold 55,550 vehicles to customers in the Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East regions, with China’s intake of 39,603 units making it the biggest single market worldwide for the carmaker.

So is it time for Porsche to establish a production hub in the Asia-Pacific region? Bear in mind that the 100,000+ volume is made up of 5 model lines with the specialized all-electric Taycan being the sixth. Obviously, assembling outside Germany would not involve all the models so it would be one or two, with the Cayenne being the most popular so it could be a good candidate.

Manufacturers invest in overseas production facilities in places where they can get good incentives by government to do so. They obviously require a good infrastructure as well. At one time, the potential domestic market volume was important since they would assemble in another country and primarily want to sell there, with exports being secondary. However, with the formation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) as a single trading bloc and duty-free exchange of goods, it is no longer just one country to look at but the potential of regional volume, which can be quite big.

Local assembly of vehicles in Malaysia began in 1967.

Up till the 1980s, Malaysia was an excellent place for any carmaker to have a production base. It had a good infrastructure, a well educated workforce which was also familiar with the English language, a stable government and a growing economy. It had begun local assembly activities in 1967 so a broad range of locally-made components was available. Manufacturers who chose to assemble locally had their vehicles taxed at lower rates so they could be priced attractively.

However, things changed after the mid-1980s when Malaysia decided to have its own National Car, with the government being an investor in the project. Naturally, it had protection so it could compete against established brands and with the protection, the playing field was no longer level like before. The market came to be dominated by one brand while others had to fight in a far smaller slice of the market.

In the interests of ‘free trade’ and also as a member of the World Trade Organisation, the government never stopped anyone else from selling in Malaysia. They were welcome to import their vehicles in CBU (completely built-up) form and pay much higher taxes, or assemble them locally and have lower taxes but still more than what Proton had to pay.

While having a national car, the government nevertheless wanted to also make Malaysia a production hub in ASEAN. However, it basically wanted carmakers to build their factories in Malaysia but export almost all the production; the domestic market was to be left alone. While this may be fine in theory, as mentioned earlier, manufacturers prefer to look at the domestic market first. If they are to export to another country, why can’t they do it from their own factories in Japan or Europe? The shipping costs would be the same anyway and they would probably have lower production costs as well as the vehicles would be made in high-volume factories with better economies of scale.

The AFTA agreement helped but Malaysia has so far not benefitted much. When the manufacturers first learnt of the single market being formed, and the ability to export around the region without import tax, they were attracted. The market size estimated when AFTA was signed in the early 1990s was about 550 million consumers, with many steadily moving upward economically, and a potential GDP of US$750 billion.

So they looked at making investments and besides incentives, they also looked at domestic market potential. Malaysia was seen as ‘protected’ so it was not seriously considered, not that the government really cared since Proton was selling everything it could make anyway. So Thailand, where the playing field was seen as level, got big chunks of investment as Ford and GM built brand new factories to make their products for the region. Indonesia too saw investments with the aim of expanding existing factories to produce more and export.

Ford did consider Malaysia and had a plan to make the Escape SUV in Malaysia for the region. The plans were confirmed but then Malaysia decided that it did not want to open up as planned under the AFTA agreement because it said that its auto industry had been battered by the Asian financial crisis. It needed some extra years to recover, so the market had to stay closed. A frustrated Ford, realizing that it would not be practical to use Malaysia, tore up its plans and put its money into the Philippines where it had a factory.

Only Volvo seems to have chosen Malaysia as a hub of sorts but that is more a historical thing. Its factory here was the first to open when Malaysia began calling for local assembly and although it had production in Thailand, that was closed down and everything concentrated in this country for the region from 2012.

For the other carmakers, Malaysia was still and attractive market because it was the largest passenger car market in ASEAN. Thailand was a pick-up truck market and in Indonesia, the biggest demand was for MPVs. So in spite of the difficult environment, many carmakers continued to operate in Malaysia, make the necessary investments periodically to upgrade their plants and kept refreshing their model lines.

Porsche Centre Ara Damansara 2020
Porsche has been officially in Malaysia for a long time, with Sime Darby Auto Performance representing the brand since 2010.

But the much desired objective of the government – to be a regional production hub – remained elusive. There have been a few National Auto Policies (NAP), each one stating that aim, and offering various types of incentives without much detail. The general way that the Malaysian government’s Ministry of International Trade & Industry has liked to operate is with ‘customised’ incentives, perhaps believing that the approach would be more appreciated by investors.

However, many in the industry have expressed a dislike for the approach, preferring the details to be open for all to know and work with. Transparency is important for these businessmen, and as one veteran industry executive said, “How can I know that my competitor might have received a better incentive but actually invested less?”. So the has remained an indifference and even with the latest NAP announced a year ago, the lack of transparency and detail continued. Many people were disappointed that only an outline was provided and could not even begin to start working out plans to propose to their head office. Anyway, since then, the government has changed so it could be that the NAP will see a revised form, depending on the MITI minister.

For many years. Daihatsu has been taking the Myvi made in Malaysia and selling it as a Daihatsu Sirion in Indonesia. Mazda has also been exporting the CX-5 assembled in Malaysia (below) to Thailand.

Over the past decade, some companies have tried to export from Malaysia with limited success. Perhaps only Volvo and Mazda (with the CX-5) have been doing well with exports but Toyota started and stopped exporting its Malaysian-made Hiace to Thailand. Proton and Perodua export, of course, and of note is the fact that the Myvi made in Malaysia is taken by Daihatsu for sale in Indonesia as a Sirion under its own brand. That says a lot about Perodua’s quality as a Japanese carmaker would not simply use a product made by someone else.

Porsche and Sime Darby
The report by The Edge Weekly mentions that Porsche will use the Inokom plant in Kedah, which is not surprising. The plant, opened in the late 1990s, is owned by Sime Darby and a unit of the company is also the importer and distributor of the German sportscars. It would make things a lot easier for the same parties to also work together on an assembly project.

If Porsche is indeed going to do it, then it will not just be an assembly program to set up. The carmaker has not done completely knocked-down (CKD) activities before so it will have to set up a new department just for it. Perhaps, being in the Volkswagen Group, it will be able to get assistance from its colleagues in Wolfsburg as there is local assembly of some Volkswagen models being done in Pahang.

The Inokom factory in Kedah which assembles vehicles from the BMW, Hyundai, MINI and Mazda brands.

It is not just a matter of picking a model and putting it into a box in disassembled form for assembly in another country. The model has also to be engineered for local assembly, taking into account the level of automation and capabilities of the workforce. This is often the case with picking models for overseas assembly. Volvo had to first invest in laser welding equipment before it could consider assembling the XC60 in Malaysia.

The two Porsche factories in Germany are very advanced with manufacturing processes that ensure high quality. It is unlikely that all the manufacturing processes at Inokom will be identically advanced, so some modification may be needed, and that means an engineering program to develop a ‘Malaysian CKD model’.

It is possible that the ‘SKD’ (semi knocked down) approach will be taken although this approach was stopped by the government in mid-2019. With SKD, bodyshells can be imported already welded together. While the government no longer allows SKD, one never knows with a ‘customized incentive’ and also, the government of today is not the same one that formulated the 2020 NAP.

The Cayenne SUV would be a good candidate for assembly as it is popular throughout the region.

Righthand drive or lefthand drive? This is also another issue, especially if the volume is not going to be very big. What some carmakers have considered – Geely and Great Wall Motors being among them – is that a production hub in ASEAN could be dedicated to righthand drive (RHD) versions which they do not make in their own country. This is more applicable to the Chinese carmakers though as the other global players have long coped with making cars with the steering wheel on either side. So Malaysia could be designated to make RHD models for most of the ASEAN markets and when volumes get higher, then they can also consider LHD.

As for quality, there is nothing inferior about Malaysian assembled vehicles today. The manufacturers have many processes that ensure the quality standards are very high, even if they might not be exactly similar to those of factories in Japan or Germany.

The only thing is consumer perception even though one can say that in this era of globalization, people don’t really care as long as the quality is not poorer. Many years ago, when Proton was assembling the Lotus Elise and tried to export it to Japan, the customers there indicated that if they wanted to buy a Lotus, it had to be made in England. Likewise, when Mazda and Toyota wanted to source some of its models from Thailand for its ASEAN markets, customers in Singapore did not want them and wanted to have cars from the Japanese factories.

Finally, the price – which is often the first thing Malaysians think of when they hear that a model will be assembled locally. For a long time, they have been conditioned to expect that a model that is assembled in Malaysia will be cheaper and that is because there is a lower tax rate and in more recent times, the government also rewards those who make investments with subsidies that can offset production costs to allow lower retail prices. So yes, a locally-assembled Porsche could be cheaper though probably not by a huge amount.

‘CKD’ is something which car-buyers may read about and some may wonder what it means. The initials stand for ‘Complete Knocked Down’ and refer to the way a vehicle is shipped to Malaysia. If it comes in a completed form, ready to be driven, then it is referred to as ‘Completely Built Up’ or ‘CBU’. If it comes in a disassembled form with many parts in boxes, and the parts are then assembled to form the vehicle, then it is a CKD model.

The concept of CKD began many decades ago when manufacturers wanted to be able to produce more vehicles for a market. Sometimes shipping vehicles in CBU form was not practical or feasible, or restrictive regulations made it difficult to sell CBU models. So vehicles were sent in parts in a box – like a Tamiya model – which could then be assembled in another country. The investment was lower than to build a factory and governments also liked it because there would be employment and transfer of technology.

Workers packing parts for the Beetle in 1955. More vehicles can be sent in CKD form than CBU form.

Assembly in Malaysia started in 1960s
In fact, in the mid-1960s, the Malaysian government decided to encourage the assembly of vehicles locally as a means to industrialize and also create more jobs, as well as benefit from transfer of technology. While it would have wished that factories could be built, the market size was too small, so the first step was an assembly plant and as an incentive, the tax rates for models assembled in Malaysia would be lower than for CBU models.

A number of manufacturers responded positively, especially as Malaysia then was a very good place for a carmaker to carry out such activities. It was developing rapidly, had a stable economy and society and the workforce was also well educated. Additionally, more vehicles can be sent in CKD than CBU form.

CKD packs are put into containers and then shipped by land, air, sea or rail to countries around the world.

The first assembly plants were opened in the second half of the 1960s, mostly situated in Shah Alam. Selangor. Carmakers in Europe, Japan and Australia began sending over CKD packs for their models to be assembled locally. To encourage the development of a local auto industry, the government also specified a list of parts which should be sourced locally. These were things like paint, windscreen glass, tyres, batteries and wire harnesses.

Volkswagen was one of the early carmakers to assemble its cars in Malaysia, starting with the Beetle. In fact, the German company had been exporting the Beetle in CKD form since 1950. In Malaysia, the packs which arrived in Port Klang were sent to the Assembly Services plant in Shah Alam. This plant was huge in its early days and assembled a variety of models from different brands as well as large commercial vehicles. With a CKD operation in place, Malaysia was added to Volkswagen global production network.

The CKD packs are usually wooden boxes and contain a number of parts, big and small, which are then transferred to the assembly line within the HICOM Automotive Manufacturers complex.

How the process works
The CKD process is slightly different from the CBU one which is pretty much just ordering whole vehicles with the required specifications. With CKD, thousands of parts must be collected and in the case of Volkswagen, the coordination is done at Wolfsburg, its home city in Germany. Orders received from all over the world are processed centrally in Wolfsburg and a supply management team ensures that the parts required are available from the different European plants and suppliers.

The source for the type of item will be different; body panels and engines, for example, may come from Volkswagen’s own factories but parts like instrument panels and seats might be from suppliers.  The parts used to be packed in the boxes manually, but high-tech systems are now used. The parts are bundled and packaged at one of the 8 distribution centres, loaded into containers and shipped by sea, rail or air to the different countries.

These 8 centres handle a total of about 1.7 million cubic metres of goods every year, corresponding to about 25,000 overseas containers. From the receipt of an order, it takes about 8 weeks before the CKD packs for a vehicle is delivered in the destination country. All in all, about 90 different vehicle projects of overseas plants are supplied via CKD from Europe.

Today, Volkswagen has 27 assembly locations in 10 countries. The largest CKD assembly plant is located in South Africa and it not only serves that market but some of its output is also exported to other countries. So it is also a production hub for certain models.

A Volkswagen Polo being assembled at the plant in Pekan, Pahang.

Quality assured even with local assembly
There are also plants located in the USA, China, Brazil, Argentina, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. In some cases, the assembly may be carried out by a local business partner. In Malaysia, Volkswagen works with HICOM Automotive Manufacturers which has a manufacturing complex in Pekan, Pahang. Of course, quality is assured as Volkswagen personnel are also present to assist and conduct inspections on every vehicle.

“We used to need only one or two faxes per week for coordination with the overseas plants. Nowadays, we work with our production plants on a real-time basis and manage about 9,000 part numbers for worldwide shipment. The tasks of our employees have changed fundamentally – they are no longer simply box-packers but are now logistics data experts,” noted Burkhard Husken, Head of CKD of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand.

Click here to know more about Volkswagen models available in Malaysia.

Those who have booked a Mitsubishi XPANDER can expect their new 7-seater crossover soon. The first units have been completed and will soon be leaving the plant at HICOM Automotive Manufacturers Sdn Bhd in Pekan, Pahang.  Malaysia is the third country to locally-assemble the XPANDER, following Indonesia and Vietnam.

The plant location would be familiar to Mitsubishi Motors as the Pajero (and earlier models of Mitsubishi pick-ups and vans) used to be assembled there in the 1990s. Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) has its own dedicated area for assembling the XPANDER at a rate of 6,000 units annually.

MMM invested in setting up an all-new Body Shop, Painting Jigs and Tester Line at the plant. The Paint Shop is said to be one of the most advanced in ASEAN. Complete immersion and coverage with protective primer paint is achieved during the Electro-Deposition (ED) process with the 360-degree rotation of the vehicle in the tank. Conventional ED processes usually just dip the body at one orientation.

Robots are used for consistent application of multiple coats of paint to ensure a high quality finish. To ensure that the XPANDERs assembled in Malaysia meet the high standards set by Mitsubishi Motors, there are auditors from the Japanese manufacturer who constantly carry out checks.

“We ensure all our customers that each unit of the XPANDER undergoes extensive quality control tests before it is shipped out. Every inch is checked by human-eyes and cutting-edge technology,” said the CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia, Tomoyuki Shinnishi.

Mr. Shinnishi said that the XPANDER is being assembled locally to achieve a more competitive and attractive price, with better specifications providing customers more convenience and comfort. “The XPANDER is a significant model for MMM and we are confident that it will be a favourite among many Malaysians,” he added.

BHPetrol RON95 Euro4M

Since its launch in Indonesia, some 270,000 units of the XPANDER (including the XPANDER Cross variant) have been sold across ASEAN. It will be in showrooms next month and come with a 1.5-litre MIVEC engine. Pricing has not been revealed but is expected to be under RM100,000. Visit www.mitsubishi-motors.com.my to locate a showroom to view and test-drive the XPANDER and other Mitsubishi models.

Besides the XPANDER, MMM also assembles two SUV models in Malaysia – the Outlander and ASX – at the Tan Chong plant in Kuala Lumpur. Its most popular model, the Triton, is imported from Thailand in CBU form.

More details of new Mitsubishi XPANDER revealed before launch next month

COVID-19 Facemask

BHPetrol RON95 Euro4M

BMW M GmBh is the high-performance subsidiary of BMW AG which has its own line of models. Until now, these models were only available for the Malaysian market in CBU form, imported from Germany. This, of course, meant higher import duties payable, bumping up their price.

Now, if you want the M340i xDrive, you can get it for a lower price and it doesn’t have to be a grey import either. Thanks to BMW Group Malaysia’s decision to assemble the model locally, it is available brand new for RM402,354.13 (excluding insurance, with full Sales Tax exemption), the first time a M model has been assembled in Malaysia.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

Derived from the 3-Series, the M340i xDrive has the same athletic design with sportier elements. The locally-assembled version comes with the M Aerodynamics Package and BMW Individual High-gloss Shadowline trim. A metallic Cerium Grey finish is applied on items such as air inlets in the front bumper, the kidney grille and its surround, along with the exterior mirror caps.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

Most powerful 3-Series derivative
The M340i xDrive has the most powerful engine in the 3-Series range, a TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder petrol unit producing 387 bhp/500 Nm.  All that output goes through an 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and is then distributed intelligently by BMW’s xDrive system to all four wheels.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

The all-wheel drive system, which has its origins in the 3-Series of 1985 (325iX), has a sporting rear-wheel bias, while modified power steering provides noticeably more direct feedback. The M Sport differential optimises traction and driving stability when cornering at high speeds or accelerating out of a bend, changing lanes or on different road surfaces.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

With all-wheel drive transmitting the power efficiently to the road, the M340i xDrive can go from 0 to 100 km/h in a claimed 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 250 km/h. A combined fuel consumption figure of about 13 kms/litre is claimed although that would be when the driver is not enjoying the full performance of the car.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

Maximising performance
Also contributing to maximised performance is variable sport steering and the specially-tuned 10 mm-lowered Adaptive M suspension. This can be electrically adjusted at any time to suit the road and driving conditions.

All that power needs good stopping power too and the engineers at BMW M have developed M Sport brakes for the model. Mounted behind 19-inch M wheels (with runflat tyres), these have 4-piston fixed calipers at the front and single-piston floating calipers at the rear in blue with the ‘M’ designation. The use of large-diameter discs increases the surface area available for braking.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

The M environment within
Though derived from the 3-Series, the cockpit has M-specific philosophy which gives a sportier environment within. Standard equipment includes sports seats for the driver and front passenger upholstered in Leather Vernasca (Black or Cognac, with black decor stitching), an M leather steering wheel, front door sill finisher with illumination, and a BMW Individual headliner in Anthracite. M-specific pedals, M-specific floormats, and interior trim finishers in Aluminium Tetragon with highlight trim finisher in Pearl Chrome are also present.

Convenience features include automatic 3-zone air-conditioning, the Comfort Access system with contactless opening of the tailgate, while entertainment is delivered via a 16-Speaker Harman Kardon Surround Sound System.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

The BMW Live Cockpit Professional has a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument panel, complemented by the BMW Navigation System Professional with a 10.25-inch touchscreen. Also standard is the Head Up Display that projects information on the windscreen and an electric glass roof.

Advanced safety systems
BMW M has made sure that the M340i xDrive’s high performance is matched with advanced safety systems.  Besides powerful BMW Laser Lights with high beam assistant up front, there is the Driving Assistant which includes Lane Change Warning, Crossing Traffic Warning at the rear, Rear Collision Warning, and Speed Limit Assist.

In the event that the driver become drowsy or loses concentration, Lane Departure Warning will alert him if the car deviates out of its lane, with active steering intervention to guide it back safely. Autonomous emergency braking occurs automatically taken if a collision is about to occur and the driver has not braked or taken any appropriate action.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

The M340i xDrive is available in Alpine White, Black Sapphire, Sunset Orange, and Portimao Blue. As with other new models, it comes with a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty with a Free Scheduled Service Programme, BMW Roadside Assistance and Accident Hotline, The BMW Group Loyalty+ Mobile App – BMW Privileges Card and BMW Service Online.

In showrooms from this weekend

Available at selected authorised BMW dealerships nationwide from this weekend, the M340i xDrive can also be booked at the BMW Shop Online with a transfer of RM1,000. Financing is available from BMW Group Financial Services Malaysia which has monthly instalment plans starting from RM4,468 (terms and conditions apply).

2020 BMW M340i xDrive CKD

Locally-assembled BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport launched at RM211,367

Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) will soon launch an all-new model – the Mitsubishi XPANDER. To have competitive pricing, carmakers must assemble their products locally to get incentives that can lower their cost and enable them to have lower retail prices.

MMM is therefore assembling the 7-seater crossover model in Malaysia, its third model to be assembled locally after the ASX and Outlander (the Triton pick-up truck is still imported from Thailand in CBU form). However, unlike the Outlander and ASX, the XPANDER will not be assembled at the Tan Chong plant in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.

(Indonesian version shown)

New production facility in Pahang
Instead, it will be assembled in Pekan, Pahang, where Mitsubishi Motors’ partner in MMM,  DRB-HICOM, has a manufacturing complex also used by Volkswagen, Isuzu and Mercedes-Benz. According to MMM’s Chief Executive Officer, Tomoyuki Shinnishi, the new production facility for the XPANDER incorporates Japanese automotive technology.

The plant has an all-new body welding workshop including new welding equipment. Its paintshop utilises advanced painting technology including a 360-degree ED-coating and a robotic spray system. This will provide high quality finishes and extend corrosion resistance. The XPANDER, which will have a 1.5-litre MIVEC engine, will also go  through an all-new tester line to check all safety functions including Active Stability Control (ASC) system.

“The XPANDER is localized to meet the demands of Malaysian customers. It will be priced competitively to cater for families and adventure-seekers who are looking for a more comfortable and practical 7-seater to make their journeys a more pleasant one. Malaysians can expect to place their bookings soon,” Mr. Shinnishi said.

Locally-assembled version of the XPANDER.

As a prelude to the launch, there’s a teaser display of the XPANDER at Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur from today until September 13. Those interested to know more and want to receive updates on the new model’s launch can register their interest at www.mitsubishi-motors.com.my.

Click here for other news and articles about Mitsubishi Motors.



In view of the Conditional Movement Control Order limiting gatherings, Volvo Car Malaysia (VCM) today launched the locally-assembled (CKD) version of the Volvo S60 T8 online. This is essentially a follow-up from the earlier launch in October last year of the CBU (imported completely built-up) model which is now in its third generation.

The model is assembled at Volvo’s own plant in Shah Alam, Selangor, the first vehicle assembly plant in Malaysia. Rather surprisingly, even though the car is assembled locally, the price of RM295,888 (without insurance) is not lower than that of the CBU model (which was said to be ‘under-priced). Normally, the CKD model can be cheaper due to the different taxation rate applied which favours locally-assembled vehicles and the car companies pass on the savings to customers.

2020 Volvo S60 T8 CKD

For exterior colour choices are available (one less than the CBU model) – Fusion Red (Metallic), Onyx Black (Metallic), Pebble Grey (Metallic) and Crystal White (Pearl). This is one less than what was available with the CBU model, the missing colour being Metallic Birch. A 5-year warranty comes with the car while service intervals are set at 20,000 kms.

The 2020 S60 T8 is pretty much the same as the CBU model, specs-wise, and as assured by VCM, the quality is also similarly high. After all, the plant has also been a regional hub for the Swedish carmaker for some time. It has received investments to upgrade its manufacturing capabilities, including laser welding equipment.

Volvo SPA (S60)

The S60 rides on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform which is used across the current Volvo range. Being modular in concept, SPA allows the engineers to develop a variety of models on the same platform, which saves R&D costs. In the case of the S60 T8, the powertrain is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) which consists of a 2-litre twin-charged (turbocharger + supercharger) 4-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor.

The latter is powered by an 11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and total system output is 407 bhp/640 Nm, with maximum torque available from 1,200 rpm. Engine power goes to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission by Aisin while the rear wheels are powered by the electric drive so the S60 has all-wheel drive.

The output numbers suggest brisk performance and indeed, this Volvo has a claimed 0 – 100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds with a top speed of 250 km/h (probably limited). However, because of the PHEV capability, it also uses less fuel and Volvo claims 50 kms/litre which is really quite amazing when you consider the performance. With a 60-litre fuel tank, that means the S60 should be good for 3,000 kms before going empty!

Like other PHEVs, the S60 T8 can run on just the electric motor alone and in this zero emissions mode, it should be able to travel up to 49 kms. Depending on the charging outlet available, recharging the battery pack to full takes around 3 hours.

2020 Volvo S60 T8 CKD

For the Malaysian market, VCM includes R-Design styling features and accessories to give a sportier image to the S60. The looks are more aggressive with black-out treatment for various elements and dual tailpipes. Like all the latest Volvos, the distinctive ‘Thor’s Hammer’ graphic in the headlights provides instant identification.

The cabin has the typical Scandinavian ambience that Volvo is noted for although the interior colour theme is not light-coloured but dark. The contoured seats are wrapped in exclusive Charcoal Fine Nappa Leather with Open Grid Textile upholstery. The Digital Instrument Cluster with 12.3-inch TFT Adaptive Digital Display is complemented by a Head-Up Display (HUD) which shows important running information on the windscreen ahead of the steering wheel.

2020 Volvo S60 T8

2020 Volvo S60 T8 CKD

An immersive 14-speaker audio system powered by Harman Kardon is part of the Sensus Connect infotainment system. This system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so smartphones can be easily linked.

An additional feature for the CKD model is the handsfree operation to open the bootlid. This is a nice feature to have and once you have a car with it, you don’t want to not have it in the next car.

Volvo has been a leader in safety and its Intellisafe suite of integrated high-tech systems is adopted in the S60. This includes City Safety with Autobrake technology, which assists the driver in avoiding potential collisions and is the only system in the market to recognise pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. In a world-first for the mid-size sedan segment. City Safety now also engages auto braking to mitigate oncoming collisions.

Volvo S60 safety
The S60 has Volvo’s Intellisafe suite of driver-assistance systems.

The Pilot Assist system – which supports the driver with steering, acceleration and braking on well-marked roads up to 130 km/h – has been upgraded with improved cornering performance. There’s also Run-off Road Mitigation, Oncoming Lane Mitigation and other driver assistance systems, now including Park Assist to make positioning the car in a parking bay much easier.

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BHPetrol RON95 Euro4M

It’s been just about 14 months since the Proton X70 was launched, during which time over 29,000 units have been delivered throughout Malaysia. The strong and positive response to the model has rejuvenated Proton, which has Geely as its partner, as well as brought back respect for the company from Malaysians. In retrospect, perhaps Proton should have found a partner earlier but being a national carmaker, it was important that anyone who partners Proton would need to be the ‘correct fit, as Proton Chairman Dato’ Sri Syed Faisal Albar put it some years ago when DRB-HICOM was looking for a partner.

The speed at which the X70 was brought to the market was impressive although it must be said that the development and engineering work had all already been done earlier for the Geely Boyue. It was not as time-consuming and Azlan Othman and his team at Proton Design ‘Malaysianised’ it with styling cues that made reference to local culture and landscape. Of course, it still required an engineering program since there was no righthand drive version of the Boyue.

Launch in 2018
Launch of the Proton X70 in December 2018

Not wanting to waste time, a decision was made to build the SUV at a Geely factory in China first while renovating the factory at Tg. Malim in Perak. It needed changes and extensions to accommodate planned growth as well as a significant improvement in quality, something which had contributed to the brand’s downturn.

Geely would probably have preferred to keep building the vehicles in China where there would be economies of scale but understanding the aspirations of the Malaysian government to develop the domestic auto industry, it was agreeable to assembling the X70 here with a plan of making Malaysia a production hub for righthand drive models.

As the renovation works, costing RM1.2 billion, were completed, trial production of 130 units began in October 2019 alongside lines for the Iriz and Persona. Well aware that Malaysian buyers were skeptical of Made-in-Malaysia quality, much attention was put into quality control and ensuring that the locally-assembled or CKD (completely knocked down) X70 would be as good as the one that came from China. Proton acknowledged that the quality score of its products compared to other brands in the Geely Group was lower but had improved greatly with guidance and assistance from its partner.

2020 Proton X70

And so today sees the CKD X70 being officially launched, and presumably ending the imports. According to Dr. Li Chunrong, CEO of Proton, the next model – which will be the X50 – will not have the same approach; local assembly will be done from the start, perhaps by the end of this year.

14 months is a rather short time in the market and with the looks of the X70 still fresh and appealing, the focus was on adding value to the product as well as addressing issues which owners complained about. The launch of the CKD model provided a good opportunity to make the changes and offer a product that would be better than the imported one.

Local assembly = lower prices
There are 4 variants to choose from – Standard, Executive, Premium and Premium X. All come only with 2WD (front-wheel drive) with no AWD variant. Meeting expectations that a locally-assembled model should be cheaper, the CKD X70 in Standard spec is priced at RM94,800 and that is RM5,000 less than the imported 2019 model. The Executive is also RM3,000 cheaper at RM106,800, while the Premium version which sold at RM123,800 last year is now RM119,800 – RM4,000 lower. the top-of-the-line Premium X is priced RM3,000 more than the Premium and you get a panoramic sunroof for the extra money. By Proton’s calculations, the total value added ranges from RM11,640 to RM13,140 with customers saving between 9% and 13%, depending on the variant. And as with the imported model, the prices are the same for Peninsular and East Malaysia.

On-the-road prices (excluding insurance) for private registration in Peninsular and East Malaysia.

Every version comes with a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty, a 5-year data package (1GB/month), free labour for scheduled maintenance (first 5 times) and for the first 3,000 X70 buyers, Proton is also throwing in an additional 4GB/month data package along with a package of accessories worth RM2,000. Customers who take their H-P financing from Proton’s partners can enjoy low interest rates as well as premium insurance coverage.

Until March 15, 2020, Proton is also having an Online Flash Booking offer for just RM99 (terms and conditions apply).

What’s new?
If you live in Malaysia, you will already know what the X70 looks like. As mentioned earlier, over 29,000 units on roads and in homes all over the country. Right off, we can tell you that there are no changes to the exterior and interior styling. The only exterior ‘change’ is the addition of a new colour choice – Space Grey – which joins the existing range of 5 colours.


2020 Proton X70
New Proton logo, introduced last September, is used for the 2020 X70 (previous logo design shown in inset on top left).

2020 Proton X70

While there are small improvements all over the vehicle to make it better, there are 5 which are significant and notable. The first is the engine which is still the 1.8-litre TGDI petrol engine (no, it is not a Volvo engine, as some people think) but retuned to give 15 Nm more torque (300 Nm) with power still at 184 ps. The extra torque improves 0 – 100 km/h acceleration by 1 second (9.5 seconds vs 10.5 seconds) which probably doesn’t sound like much but should prove useful when overtaking. The retuning has also made the engine less thirsty with a significant 13% reduction to 13.2 kms/litre, it is claimed.

Besides the retuning, what has also helped in increasing fuel efficiency and performance is the switch to a dual-clutch transmission, referred to as 7DCT. You may have heard bad things about fuel-clutch transmissions (of other brands) but those were the early generation and Geely would certainly have studied what the problems were and designed its DCT to be problem-free. Besides, the 7DCT is a wet-clutch type and the problems were with DCTs having a dry clutch.

2020 Proton X70

2020 Proton X70

The 7DCT in the X70 has shift-by-wire control, which means that electronic signals execute the changes instead of a cable. This enables shifts to be quicker and smoother, complementing the inherent benefits of the dual-clutch concept. The driver can choose from 3 driving modes and also shift manually but there are no paddle shifters.

The engine and 7DCT come from Geely’s factory in China already assembled, which is also the case with many locally-assembled models of other brands. It is likely that engines may also be assembled here later on if the production volume rises and justifies additional investment in an engine assembly plant.

New/improved comfort and convenience features
Next on the list would be comfort and convenience features, starting with ventilated front seats. This is a feature that is usually found on premium luxury models and is still rare at this price level. There are fans inside the seats which can be set at three different speeds. With air blowing upwards, things should be cooler on hot days. Presumably, Proton has omitted the HOT mode which is often found on imported models as they are also intended for markets where there is cold weather.

2020 Proton X70

2020 Proton X70

The fixed angle of the rear seat backrest was something owners (or rather their passengers) complained about. It’s not something we would have noticed as we spend most of the time testing the car from the driver’s seat. But Proton heard about the dissatisfaction and decided to make it possible to set the backrest at 2 angles over a range of 27 degrees to 32 degrees. As the backrest is divided (60:40), the left and right sides can be separated adjusted.

Another high-end feature which has been added is the powered tailgate with automatic opening (from Executive variant upwards). A sensor under the bumper will detect a foot and unlock/raise the tailgate. It’s a feature which is really useful when both hands are carrying bags or other items.

2020 Proton X70

Other specs maintained
The prices are lower and Proton has even improved the value of the X70 with new and improved features but without taking away what it already had – which is a lot of good stuff. All variants are offered with the Integrated Cockpit Information System (GKUI) system via an 8-inch Android based touchscreen interface. With an embedded eSIM card for internet connectivity, the system can provide online music streaming, GPS navigation and weather forecasts.

Proton X70

2020 Proton X70

2020 Proton X70

It also has voice recognition and the Proton Link app which allows owners to stay connected to their vehicle via their mobile device. The app and creating a driving profile based on distance travelled, fuel economy and journey times while keeping them informed of service intervals.

5-star safety
The X70 has been tested by ASEAN NCAP and scored the maximum of 5 stars. That’s not surprising since it has a very extensive list of safety features and systems. Of note is the 360 Camera (Executive, Premium and Premium X variants) which gives the driver an all-round view to aid parking. On the Premium and Premium X variants, there’s also a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.

2020 Proton X70

The Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) suite is also standard on the two Premium variants. This provides Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information System, Door Opening Warning System, and Intelligent High Beam Control.

Visit www.proton.com to locate a showroom where you can view, test-drive and purchase the new 2020 X70.

First Made-in-Malaysia Proton X70 officially rolls out at Tg. Malim factory



Following the visit of Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Pakistan earlier this year where he gifted the Prime Minister of Pakistan a Proton X70, the SUV has now been delivered to the government of Pakistan.

Proton X70

To date, over 26,000 units of the X70 have been delivered in the domestic market and exports are starting as well. In the case of Pakistan, plans were finalised in March this year to build an assembly plant that will be owned and operated by ALHAJ Automotive, Proton’s business partner there. Vehicle manufacturing is not a new activity for the ALHAJ Group as it has a subsidiary which has been producing FAW vehicles for a number of years.

Production is targeted to begin in 2021 with the X70 as the first of several models that will be sold in Pakistan. The long-term goal is to sell 400,000 vehicles by 2027. Just as in Malaysia, assembling its vehicles locally will allow Proton to have more attractive pricing as duties are lower for vehicles assembled in the country.

Proton Tg Malim
Parts for the X70 will be sent from Proton’s Tg. Malim factory in completely knocked-down (CKD) packs for assembly at the ALHAJ Automotive plant in Pakistan.

The brand new assembly plant will be located in Karachi, Pakistan’s industrial and financial centre. The initial investment will be US$30 million (around RM124.3 million) and 2,000 direct employment opportunities are expected to be created in its first 3 years of operations. It is estimated that a further 20,000 indirect jobs will also be created as a result of the new plant being commissioned.

“Proton sees a lot of potential in Pakistan and as Malaysia is the only Muslim country to have its own automotive brand, both our countries are natural partners who have so much to share with each other. The Proton X70 has won several awards at home and we hope that eventually, it can accomplish the same feats when it arrives here,” said Mohd Khalid Yusof, Proton’s Director of Investment and Promotion.

First Made-in-Malaysia Proton X70 officially rolls out at Tg. Malim factory



Local assembly of vehicles has been going on since the mid-1960s when the government offered incentives to carmakers to build factories and assemble their vehicles in Malaysia, or have the vehicles assembled under contract by other parties. The move was to put Malaysia on the path towards industrialisation and the auto industry was to serve as a catalyst, as it had in countries like Japan and Germany.

From a handful of factories in the late 1960s, mainly in Selangor and Johor, the network of assembly plants spread across the country to states like Pahang and Perak, and even East Malaysia. The number of factories has risen and fallen as market conditions have changed over the past 50 years, and there are 22 active plants today which collectively produced  380,940 units of passenger and commercial vehicles during the first 8 months of this year.

From the start, the government encouraged the sourcing of parts locally as well to develop the auto industry in a comprehensive way. Incentives were also given for using more local parts as well as for investments made to grow local assembly. However, where exports are concerned, Malaysia has not been as strong as Thailand and Indonesia and it is only in the past decade that a few carmakers have started to use Malaysian plants as regional production hubs for some models.

Mazda Kulim Plant

Assembly plants in Malaysia

Aerial view of HICOM Automotive Manufacturers (Malaysia) in Pekan, Pahang. Brands such as Isuzu, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi FUSO and DEFTECH assemble their products at the complex.



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