Happy Malaysia Day, everyone! – Let’s look at six notable Malaysian automotive milestones over the years.
Malaysia has had an extensive record of pushing boundaries and breaking records. With all the talk about cars in Malaysia recently, we thought we’d have some fun and take a look at some of the country’s notable car facts.
1. Malaysia was the first South East Asian country to have an automobile industry
We Malaysians have always been proud of our country when it comes to cars. Did you know that Malaysia was the first country in South East Asia to have an automobile industry? Since the first domestic automobile “PROTON” was manufactured in 1983, our automotive industry has become one of the major industries supporting the Malaysian economy. (Overview of the Malaysian Automotive Industry and Its Future Transformation, 2020).
The Proton Saga was introduced in 1983, making it the first national car and the first passenger car with a Malaysian nameplate. Proton has recently expanded its state-of-the-art plant, Proton City in Tanjung Malim, – to accommodate a significant increase in production capacity.
2. Malaysia’s First Car: The Saga
The first Proton Saga, which made its first appearance on 9 July 1985, was based on a Mitsubishi model after the Japanese car manufacturer agreed to a joint venture with HICOM to produce Malaysia’s first car. It quickly established itself as a favourite among Malaysian car buyers and on 16 March 1989, it was launched in the United Kingdom, where it achieved its sales targets in just six months.
In total, over 1.8 million units have been sold in the last 35 years, making the Saga the most popular model of a Malaysian automotive brand. (Celebrating 35 Years of the Proton Saga, 2020)
3. Sepang was the first modern circuit in South East Asia to host an F1 race in 1999, and Malaysia had its very own F1 driver
The Sepang International Circuit was built in 1999 to host the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix as well as MotoGP races.
The circuit has a variety of fast and slow turns. The first and third sectors of the lap have long straightaways and tight hairpin curves, while the second sector has a mix of medium and high-speed corners. The track was one of the most difficult to date (before it was removed from the F1 calendar in 2017).
Alexander Charles Yoong Loong was the first Malaysian to race in F1. He raced for Minardi in 2001 and 2002. (Top 5 Facts About Sepang International Circuit – Kuala Lumpur, 2017)
4. Malaysia is the third largest car market in the ASEAN region with PROTON exporting to over 26 countries all over the world
Malaysia is the third biggest car market within the ASEAN region with PROTON trading in over twenty-six nations all over the world. The key trade showcase includes Australia, Singapore, the Middle East and the United Kingdom.
Just recently, The Proton X50 made history by setting a new monthly sales volume record and snatched the title of best-selling vehicle in Malaysia for July 2022. (Proton X50 Snatches Best-Selling Vehicle Crown in July, 2022)
5. The Proton R3 Waja won the Formula Drift Singapore 2010 with Tengku Djan behind the wheel
In the mid-2000s, the Proton R3 Waja was built by PROTON to take part in the Formula Drift Singapore 2010. The event saw drivers compete against each other in their specially-modified vehicles across challenging courses that included a skid pad, slalom and hairpin turns.
The event saw our first win in the drift series, with Malaysia’s Tengku Djan beating 42 other drivers to be crowned champion at Formula Drift Asia’s season opener. The feat hasn’t been matched since.
6. Karamjit Singh, the first Malaysian to win the PWRC championship
Karamjit Singh is one of the fastest and most successful Rally drivers in the region. On his first attempt at the championship, Karamjit became World Champion in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship in 2002 and also won the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship that same year.
The Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) is a class in the World Rally Championship, that features as a support class for the main WRC category.
He was the first Asian to become a world champion in a motorsport’s world championship series, breaking new ground for Malaysian race drivers. (Sherman, 2016)
Bonus Fact – Malaysia’s Car Industry can trace its roots back to 1926!
The Malaysian car industry started in 1926 with the foundation of The Straits Times Car Co Ltd., which imported cars from Britain. In 1933, this company became known as Motor Industries Corporation Sdn. Bhd (MIC).
It was privatised in 1993 under Proton Holdings Berhad and continues producing cars today.
Malaysia has had an interesting history with cars, from being the first country in South East Asia to having an automobile industry to having the first Formula 1 track in the region.
We’ve also produced some notable drivers who have gone on to win championships and races all over the world. So next time you see an – X50 or a Saga, take a moment and think about how much history there is behind that car!
Check out EON’s authorised PROTON dealerships here.
Celebrating 35 years of the Proton Saga. (2020, July 7). PROTON. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.proton.com/en/press-release/2020/july/celebrating-35-years-of-the-proton-saga
Overview of the Malaysian Automotive Industry and its future transformation. (2020, December 10). Nippon Express. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.nipponexpress.com/press/report/10-Dec-20.html
Proton X50 Snatches Best-Selling Vehicle Crown In July. (2022, August 3). PROTON. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.proton.com/en/press-release/2022/august/proton-x50-snatches-best-selling-vehicle-crown-in-july
17 Fun Facts About Proton That You Might Not Know About. (2020, October 26). ezAUTO.MY. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://ezauto.my/blog/2020/10/26/17-fun-facts-about-proton-that-you-might-not-know/
Sherman, D. (2016, December 16). Malaysias best rally driver to date is Karamjit Singh. DSF.my. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.dsf.my/2016/12/still-malaysias-best-rally-car-driver-ever/
Top 5 Facts About Sepang International Circuit – Kuala Lumpur. (2017, September 29). WeekendNotes. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.weekendnotes.com/sepang-international-circuit/