We are always complaining about the high cost of vehicle ownership and still we Malaysians find a way to get a new car under the porch every 4-6 years. This creates a cycle of debt that never ends until past retirement. Yes, many have been in car finance debt even past retirement and it is a financial burden that has been accepted through the ages as we are a car crazy nation.
The issue still lies with the quality of our purchase. The amount of money we pay against the quality delivered. Local assembled cars make up the majority of cars sold in the country, the large Malaysian middle class are the buyers. Vehicles on offer 20 years ago for the middle class were most of the time of better quality than current offerings. Yes, safety features and technology features have increased and this is good, but the ‘quality’ of interior plastics, exterior trim, paint finish, leather or seat material upholstery and finishing have actually gone backwards as more cars get put into showrooms.
Yes, they all look very shiny and attractive, but on closer inspection after a few years of use you will realize that cabin trim easily cracks, seat material easily fades, knobs and buttons starting getting ‘sticky’ or their etchings fade and roof linings start sagging.
On the exterior, the paint is thinner and needs paint protection right out of the showroom floor. The headlamps are plastic and they start fading after a few years and this reduces the brightness at night whereas older cars used glass headlamps that look great even after 30 years or so. The black trim or chrome trim around the windows last longer and do not fade easily. The rubber strips on the bumpers do not warp like with newer cars. When you unfortunately meet with a small traffic fender bender the damage is repairable with a quick dent removal kit, but with modern cars you will need a full panel change and paint job to go with it.
This and more are the issues that most car buyers fail to notice as there is little choice at the given high asking prices. Even with base model premium and luxury cars you get only slightly better quality and really not your monies worth.
Well, this situation will probably not get any better as car prices will continue to be high in our country and we will continue to accept what we can afford and pay the instalments for the given 5-7 years.
Take Australia for example. Malaysians who migrate to Australia soon realize that homes are expensive. Water and electricity bills are high. Fuel prices are not subsidized. Plumbers, electricians and even mechanics charge by the hour and they all probably earn more than you. But buying a decent car is within reach as prices are lower than Malaysia. Also, education is good and the cost is much lower for Australians, but you actually pay for it over the years as your yearly income tax is very high.
Take Canada for example. Malaysians migrating there will enjoy very low priced luxury cars but all other services and necessities mentioned above for Australia are high. Also the cost of homes is very high. Add to this the winter months. You need to spend a lot on heating your home and clothes and good to keep warm. Also, just like Australia, income tax is high.
South Of The Border
Singapore car prices are much higher than Malaysia and they have a very good reason as they lack the necessary land for more roads and parking spaces. However, their currency is very high, they can travel to Australia or Canada and not feel any currency issues. Their public transport system is just great but housing, electricity and water costs much more.
North Of The Border
Let’s get closer to home. Thailand. Where cars are just a little cheaper than in Malaysia, homes are priced lower, food and services are also lower priced and the Thai currency is moving upwards. The Thai economy is getting better and tourism is better than ever. Fuel and electricity is not subsidized and yet the average middle class Thai can drive a decent car, live in a nice home and has quality meals at a reasonable price. Even better, with high fuel prices and toll booths all over Bangkok, taxis costs less pre kilometer travelled than in Malaysia. Wonder why?
Add to this, the Thai auto market is thriving as brands move up their factories in Thailand and the Thai government is actively promoting electric vehicle and hybrid vehicle ownership. Thailand has also been selling high quality fuel (diesel and petrol) for some years already. We in Malaysia are just starting to ‘sniff’ high quality fuel in our country.
This above is what our middle class Malaysian should be having. Lower priced vehicles and better quality of life for our stagnant income growth. Well, 2020 is finally here and we are waiting for that great ‘Wawasan 2020’ statement made years ago to come true!