The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) announced last week that the National Automotive Policy (NAP) that was supposed to be unveiled last year, will finally be revealed on this Friday, 21st February, by the Prime Minister. You can read the full media release here.

As the NAP is a framework that sets out broad directions, don’t get your panties in bunch if it doesn’t spell out any specifics on lowering the price of the car you’ve been dreaming to own. What the industry is looking out for are its objectives and goals over the mid to long term, but more importantly, the spirit which these policies are based on.

Bearing in mind who’s helming the government these days, could Malaysia revert to protectionist policies to facilitate the defunct notion of a ‘national car’, like how it was in the 80s and 90s? We know how that venture turned out – non-national brands slumped under the weight of duties, manufacturers went to Thailand to set up their regional bases and AP holders became millionaires peddling imported used cars to Malaysian consumers starved of choices.

Or are we going to meander along with the hotchpotch policies of the status quo; wanting to become the ‘hub’ of different things but without a cohesive plan on how to do so? It’s all well and good to flaunt trendy buzzwords such as ‘electrification’, ‘autonomous drive’, ‘charging network’, but do we have the will to carry them out without politics getting in the way?

Or maybe, just maybe, the government fully grasps what the automotive industry is currently undergoing – a once-in-a-century transformation that’s sapping huge resources but also presents opportunities for governments to attract investments of new technologies from manufacturers seeking a conducive environment. Yes, that means offering incentives in return of investment, expertise and jobs.

For all that we’ve squandered in the past, there remain a sizable number of assembly plants (along with parts vendors) producing cars for local consumption, some even export in small quantities. But if we are to make the leap and become a volume exporter of low- and zero-emission vehicles (assuming that’s where we want to be), the policies of NAP 2020 would have to create a level playing field for all brands, one that’s inclusive, progressive and supportive of new technologies.

But are we being too hopeful?