From Malaysia With Love, But You Can’t Get It Here!

Malaysian made Mazdas on sale in Thailand  In an announcement that may have come as a surprise to some motor industry insiders, Berm...

Malaysian made Mazdas on sale in Thailand 

In an announcement that may have come as a surprise to some motor industry insiders, Bermaz Motors has announced the export of the first batch of 200 Mazda CX5s to Thailand, with more to follow. The exports come after a 6 year hiatus in Mazda production following the closure of AMI who was the manufacturer since 1968, although the ownership had altered a number of times. During the gap in the Malaysian manufacturing, Mazda vehicles had been imported from Thailand and Japan, so this announcement is seen as a bit of a coup for the local car manufacturing industry.

Selamat Jalan! and Sawadeekap! to the Mazdas

The Malaysian government has, since the mid 1960s, promoted a built-in Malaysia policy to try and create a home grown industry. But even with the national car manufacturer, Proton, and other key players such as Perodua and Naza, exports have rarely amounted to much; build quality of locally manufactured cars along with the technology that is being sold to them being the chief concern of consumers in overseas markets. A few years back, in what has become a somewhat infamous broadcast in the Top Gear programme aired on the BBC, Jeremy Clarkson destroyed the Perodua that he had just purchased to protest the quality:

However, it is clear that Mazda Malaysia Sdn Bhd (MMSB), which is a joint venture between Mazda and Bermaz Motors (that, in turn, is a part of Vincent Tan’s Berjaya Corp Bhd), will be manufacturing and exporting the absolute current Mazda CX5, the same as is available in all markets worldwide. The first vehicle to be locally assembled and manufactured at the plant was the Mazda 3 and it was the competitive pricing launched by Bermaz Motors that is thought to have been the catalyst for the resurgence of the brand in Malaysia.
Mazda Group GM, Hiroshi Inoue, said that the CX5 has exceeded 300 000 units worldwide since its launch in February of 2012 and is the bestselling model in Malaysia. The models manufactured in Malaysia will be exported to Thailand, the biggest regional car market, and the Malaysia operation is an indispensable part of the regional expansion plans for Mazda. In 2008, sales for Mazda in Malaysia were languishing at a low of about 1000 units per year but Dato’ Ben Yeoh, the MD for Bermaz Motors, said they had sold over 24 000 vehicles this year and that 6900 units of CX5 alone were sold. Next year, Bermaz expects to sell up to 8000 units of the CX5 and this will represent about 25% of their overall sales here. Sales are also expected to be boosted next year with the introduction of the new Mazda 3.

Mazda, like many other Japanese car manufacturers, has been hurt over a number of years by the strong Yen forcing the price of their products so that they have been having problems competing. Against this was the quality argument, with the Made-in-Japan tag being seen as higher quality than locally assembled or manufactured products. Times are changing though and many manufacturers are rushing to take advantage of local reduced tariff advantages. In recent years, Mazda has announced plants in Mexico to take advantage of NAFTA and now in Malaysia, probably to take full advantage of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) which is starting to be realised.
When it comes to the issue of quality, it is clear that this is a major concern for Mazda as they will remain a 70% owner of MMSB and will remain focused on the manufacturing and localisation process, according to Yuki Nakamine, the Senior Executive Officer for MMSB. He continued by saying that the marketing and distribution will be handled by the local partner as they are closer to the market. At present, all components comes in a Complete Knock Down format (CKD) but localisation of parts is in the plan.

Perhaps the strangest twist comes at the end of the tale with some publications reporting that the Malaysian manufactured CX5 will not be on sale in Malaysia as the quality of the fuel is too low for the 2013 Mazda CX5 2.2 litre diesel that is being manufactured at the Inokom plant, Kulim. Unfortunately for the Malaysian market, the fuel required is a minimum of Euro-4 diesel which is not yet available in Malaysia. The other two variants of the CX5 that are also built in the Inokom plant, the 2 litre and 2.2 litre Sky-Activ-G petrol fuelled vehicles, are also not available for the Malaysian market, although no reason was given.


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