Perodua aiming to become R&D hub for ASEAN, develop Daihatsu models for Indonesia and Thailand

At Perodua’s presentation of its full year review earlier today, the automaker also touched on its research and development (R&D) plans in the near and extended future.

The company isn’t just looking to build more cars, it wants to develop them too, looking to be involved on a level beyond what it is at now. Now that the company has achieved full upper body development capability with support from Daihatsu, the intent is to work towards becoming an ASEAN R&D hub, working on developing products with – and for – the Japanese automaker.

Perodua president and CEO Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad says the aim is to have Perodua designing vehicles not just for Malaysia but for Indonesia and Thailand as well, and the company is working very hard to become the R&D hub in the region, and a self-reliant one at that.

He said that while Daihatsu has a very big operation in Indonesia, “in terms of R&D, at this moment Perodua R&D, in terms of testing equipment, investment and facilities, is bigger than Indonesia,” he said.

Currently, the automaker’s R&D capabilities include full top hat upper body design, engineering design, local parts development as well as the ability to undertake major facelift projects, but the big step will come with the advent of the next model, which will ride on the Daihatsu New Global Architecture (DNGA) platform that is based on the Toyota equivalent.

This is expected to be the D55L SUV, expected later this year. Aside from the SUV, four future unidentified DNGA-based models were outlined in the strategic direction presentation graphic, but Zainal was quick to point out that not all would be Perodua models.

“These four new models may not necessarily be Perodua models. When we achieve the level of R&D to become an ASEAN hub, we will design a model even for Daihatsu,” he said, adding that no matter the model, be it a Perodua or a Daihatsu, the company would be able to develop it.

Interestingly, while three of the highlighted quartet were hatchbacks, one was a sedan bodystyle. While nothing was intimated, it could well be that Perodua is leading the development of new DNGA-based sedan model for Daihatsu, meant for the ASEAN market.

The Daihatsu DN F-Sedan concept from two years ago could provide an idea of the intended direction. Daihatsu has never come up with a sedan, so it’d be new ground for the automaker, but with the Bezza, Perodua now has some experience with the bodystyle, which will surely prove invaluable.

As to designing products to cater for different markets within the region, Zainal said that the hub would be able to cater for different needs and requirements, and be distinct about it in terms of product differentiation.

“For example, they could ask us to develop a Daihatsu brand model for the Indonesian market. Our R&D is capable of doing that, but it doesn’t mean that that we (Perodua) takes that model and make it for the Malaysian market,” he said.

He said that Daihatsu actually engages Perodua to design for different markets, and that since last year, Perodua has been receiving consignment jobs to develop vehicles for other countries.

Curiously, the camouflaged Avanza mule spotted here last October could provide an idea of how this is shaping up. The mule could well be a R&D testbed for the next-gen Daihatsu Xenia/Avanza for Indonesia, given the presence of Indonesian Low MPVs being benchmarked against it.

The company also revealed that its total R&D investment to date stands at RM1.4 billion, which it says is about 18% of total investment made. This has gone into building facilities such as an engine lab, test track, thermal chamber, a VPT lab, emissions test centre and a design studio/research centre.

The company added it is in the midst of upgrading its test track, which is unique to Malaysia in terms of evaluation capabilities. Zainal said that the upgrading work on the course is expected to be completed before the end of 2020.

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