Malaysia Can Honour Aishah Ahmad S Legacy With Ev Push
By the time we got out of the Borneo jungle, almost a week had gone by since Aishah Ahmad had passed on.
Aishah was the face and spokesperson of the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) for more than 20 years. She held office in the MAA by virtue of her position as director of Jaguar Land Rover Malaysia.
Her death in Jeddah on the eve of her return from an annual pilgrimage came as a shock because she had always been known as a healthy lady who enjoyed her golf. She also excelled during presentations at MAA press conferences.
Aishah will be sorely missed. She was so capable and articulate that most captains in the automotive industry wanted her as its spokesperson.
She had to walk a fine line between representing the automotive industry – mindful of her corporate position in the Sime Darby group – and taking care not to be seen as criticising the government when national policies showed unrealistically short-term ambitions. That said, she was nobody’s fool and would never suffer being a lightning rod for anyone with a vested interest.
I had the good fortune of being her acquaintance throughout her stewardship of the MAA.
Coming from the classic school of British automakers, she was strict with her staff and thrifty with money – as I found out while partnering with the MAA on one motor show in the mid-2020’s.
Put in charge of our joint motor show, she nixed my proposal to lay carpets over the venue’s bare cement floor – and presciently, too, because that show barely broke even.
Automotive journalists on the Car of the Year panel voted Aishah the Automotive Man of the Year in 2018. Thanks to her, the award will from here on be called the Automotive Person of the Year.
Her untimely death comes at the turning point of both the Malaysian and global auto industries.
This is the first time that China has emerged as the largest car maker in the world. For Malaysian car buyers, this is the first time China-inspired cars are ahead of the pack in sales.
Japanese cars won the market share from British in the 70’s only to surrender it to South Korean cars in the 2000’s. Now, it is China’s turn to lead.
On the global front, the electric car is evolving, and will likely replace the internal combustion engine-powered car.
Given US-China trade tensions, electric vehicle makers and EV battery manufacturers from Asia and Europe will need to diversify some of their production capacity to neutral blocs such as Asean.
Malaysia and Asean member countries should carefully consider US President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which seeks to protect the EV car industry in the US.
The IRA may make EVs more expensive for car buyers in the US in the short and middle term, but it will also serve to protect the US EV industry.
EV makers and EV battery makers from China’s CATL, Japan’s Honda and South Korea’s LG are re-directing their investments and R&D to the USA in response to the IRA.
Zerova Technologies is one of several Taiwanese companies riding the rocketing demand for greener cars in the US. As a maker of electric-vehicle charging systems, it is carefully navigating the trade-protection elements of the IRA.
Its CEO, Jay Yang, had reportedly said that efforts to minimise reliance on China in the EV supply chain would encourage automakers to shift manufacturing to the US. This will raise costs for American consumers.
According to Yang, Zerova has a manufacturing facility in the US and sources its materials from there. Higher labour expenses, he reportedly said, mean that operating costs are 80% more compared to Asia, which he said will have to be passed on to the consumer.
Likewise, the cost of Zerova’s charging infrastructure could double because of the IRA, said Yang.
Despite this, the IRA is good for the US as EVs would create many job opportunities in the long run, he said.
Although an EV taskforce comprising the international trade and industry ministry (Miti), the Malaysia Automotive Robotics and Internet of Things Institute (MARii) have pushed very hard for additional incentives in Budget 2023, only some EV tax exemptions were approved by the finance ministry.
US-based Tesla’s decision to invest in the import, distribution and sales of its vehicles in Malaysia and to set up its own super-charging network, recently announced by international trade and industry minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, is a significant development.
It means Malaysia is opening new avenues for EV car makers and looking to remove existing tariff and non-tariff barriers which have until now hindered the inflow of the latest EV technologies.
MITI and its agency, MARii, must be complimented on achieving this regime change because the new world of EV cars also contains disruptive technology in the form of Autonomous Driving.
Ads by KioskedAutonomous Driving at a minimum of Level 2 will be required for Tesla cars imported into Malaysia under MITI’s Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) Global Leaders’ Initiative.
What all this means is that Malaysia must resolve to continue its new efforts to be the most foreign investor-friendly country in Asean for EVs as well as new and existing E&E industries which are expected to grow around EVs and Autonomous Driving.
Making a determined push in that direction would be a good way to honour Aishah’s legacy. - FMT
Yamin Vong may be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.
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