Published on December 16th, 2019 | by Subhash Nair


Niché Vehicles Malaysia Should Produce

Selling cars is a tough gig, especially if you’re in Malaysia and you have to work with a capricious and omnipotent government. But I think there’s a case for carmakers like Perodua and Proton to try and engage in more niche products to see what the market is willing to spend money on and to move units at the same time. These particular niches have been compiled by me based on how the used market in Malaysia seems to value certain vehicles or classes of vehicles.

I also believe there’s a huge, relatively untapped market for these types of vehicles in developing regions around the world.


The simple commercial van

Until the early 2000s, there seemed to be a huge demand for simple, useful commercial vans like the Hiace, Vanette, and the Econovan. Perodua dipped its toes in the market with cars like the Rusa. 

However, since then, many of these products have disappeared from the market. Sure, parent companies like Daihatsu and Toyota both offer commercial vans, and without a huge tax barrier in the way, they are able to sell these products at a competitive price.

2019 Toyota Hiace exterior 3

But I still think a locally-assembled minivan from a national brand could work out. Demand for older kei-sized vans is still rather strong, and many businesses and individuals are prepared to pay good money for something simple and retro looking. Perhaps a retro-inspired electric version of such a product could do well for weekend campers and food vendors with the right government incentives.

Pick ups & Utes

Just like commercial vans, most foreign brands have little problem selling their pick-up trucks at reasonable prices in Malaysia. That being said, a couple of trends have emerged in the last few years.

First of all, the starting price for the average pick-up has moved up quite a bit. You could get one of the newer Mitsubishi Triton or Isuzu D-Max lo-riders for around RM80,000, but that’s still not affordable enough for much smaller businesses.

Capture the spirit of this, in something a little more modern

Proton tried the Arena out in the early 2000s to mixed reactions. With Geely funding, we’re sure they could produce a decent B or C segment ute that would do well in Australia as well as locally. 

Perodua on the other hand have a few Daihatsu Kei-sized pickups to build on. Perhaps a larger, modernised version of the Midget could do well not just here but in other developing countries as well.

The simple FWD sportshatch

We know companies like Honda have been thinking of bringing in the S660 to the Malaysian market. The problem is that once the duties have been imposed, there’s really no way to get a good price. 

Toyota GR worked with Daihatsu for this, maybe they’ll be open to working with Perodua too

We’re not suggesting Perodua locally-assemble the Daihatsu Copen or for Proton to revive the Satria in the form of a 3-door Iriz (though both would be cool), but there are ways to go about this that cost significantly less resources. An R3-specced Iriz or a GR-specced Myvi would be good branding exercises for both brands. Selling these at cost price as a marketing gimmick would pay off in publicity alone. Perodua’s GearUp division could even sell the GR-inspired bodykits for standard Myvis.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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