KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia on Wednesday awarded a manufacturing license to a $618 million venture that will assemble fuel-efficient SUVs for China's Great Wall Motor Co.
The license was the first issued under the country's new auto policy unveiled in January, aimed at making Malaysia a regional center for energy efficient vehicles.
Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamad said privately owned Go Automobile Manufacturing will invest 2 billion ringgit ($618 million) over the next four years to expand its manufacturing plant in northern Kedah state. It will have a production capacity of 100,000 vehicles by 2018, with 60 percent of the output to be exported to Southeast Asian countries, he said. About 4,000 jobs will be created.
"This is a very important milestone" for Malaysia's auto industry, he said.
Mustapa said more manufacturing licenses are expected to be issued this year to bolster the auto industry.
The new auto policy is the latest step in a gradual liberalization of Malaysia's protected car market. The government previously only issued new manufacturing licenses for vehicles with engine size of 1.8 liters and above to protect national car makers Proton and Perodua.
But intense competition from neighbors Thailand and Indonesia is forcing Malaysia to loosen up its policy to woo investors.
Go Automobile's plant will assemble the Haval M4 and the H6 sports utility vehicles, with gasoline and diesel engines at 1.5 and 2.0 liters, said Go's chief executive, Ahmad Azam Sulaiman. He expects the first vehicle to roll off the assembly line in September.
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