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All of us were taken aback by the presence of the Daihatsu New Compact SUV at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show press day yesterday. We, Perodua employees included, were expecting nothing more than the four cutesy concept cars on the stand.
Only the IcoIco, TsumuTsumu, WaiWai and WakuWaku (more on these later) were on the Daihatsu stage. But behind us were two units of the New Compact SUV, without fanfare or barriers. The official press release had no mention of the SUV either, and the official presentation by Daihatsu president Soichiro Okudaira only had a cursory remark that seemed like an afterthought.
No one seems to know why the New Compact SUV was given the silent treatment. This is after all a B-segment crossover (last we checked, a hot segment globally) that’s 100% production ready to our eyes (design aside, all glass panels had the vendor’s stamp, and there’s even a security alarm sticker), and a highly relevant car to Daihatsu’s two largest overseas markets – Malaysia and Indonesia, in that order.
Its presence caught Perodua president and CEO Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad (pic) off guard, too. “We were surprised by it (appearing at TMS) too, because that model is not yet launched in Japan,” he told Malaysian media at a dinner meeting yesterday night.
Asked to comment on the possibility of the Daihatsu showcar being the upcoming Perodua D55L B-segment SUV, he declined to give an outright “yes”, but gave a couple of hints – enough for us to believe that this car would be coming to Malaysia in the near future as a Perodua.
“As I told Danny earlier, if you look at the model’s engine capacity – which is a 1.0 litre turbo – what does it mean? What’s interesting is that it’s a new technology of engine. I’m always thinking ‘technology for everybody’. It’s an if, I’m not saying yes or when, but if there’s anything, we’ll make an announcement,” Zainal said.
Perodua had a hand in the design of the SUV as well. On the question of whether P2 had any involvement, Zainal quipped. “If i said no I’d be lying. Because I’m very proud of our designers who are working in Daihatsu, who are part of the development.” He then revealed that there are currently 30 Perodua employees based in Daihatsu’s design department.
To the question of any other aspects that Daihatsu’s Malaysian arm had a hand in, the P2 chief said that DMC is using the Daihatsu New Global Architecture for the New Compact SUV.
DNGA is much like parent company Toyota’s TNGA platform, and has been engineered to be future proof, so to speak, for the next decade at least. It has been designed to accommodate the tech and features anticipated for the next cycle of models, which means it’s built to high specs.
“If you’re talking about the model we saw just now, we didn’t have a lot of input in terms of spec or architecture. Because the platform is actually the new DNGA. I don’t know if you can see it tomorrow (we’re paying a visit to Daihatsu’s Kyushu plant), but this car will be produced at Kyushu if I’m not mistaken,” Zainal revealed.
“But what we learned is when you create a new platform, we learn about production preparation. For example, setting up a line. When our designers work in DMC, they will share info with DMC. So if, if, we need to make this in Malaysia tomorrow, we know that it fits (the factory),” he added.
If all of the above comments aren’t strong enough hints for you, here’s one more. On whether there’s a market for the New Compact SUV in Malaysia, Zainal said: “That’s what we’re studying now, whether there’s a market for this (type of car). We’re not sure yet. Perception in Malaysia is a little different – whether a 1.0 litre turbo with that kind of body (size) will be accepted by Malaysians.
“Malaysians always feel that the engine is small but the body is big. We are now studying that perception and the technology,” he concluded.
There you have it, the yet to be named Daihatsu B-segment SUV, which will soon be made in Kyushu for Japanese consumption. Underpinned by the all-new DNGA platform and powered by a downsized 1.0 litre turbocharged engine, it could well be the base for Perodua’s upcoming D55L SUV, with a local face of course.
Of late, Perodua has been making strides in safety, rolling out active safety and driver assist features in the Myvi, Aruz and even the entry-level Axia. Is a leap in powertrain technology in the form of downsized turbocharging the next move? With this latest development, that’s likely.
This SUV prototype, should it translate to a future Perodua, would also go some way in helping the Malaysian market leader achieve its long term goal, which is to be considered based on quality and content – next to the leading Japanese brands – and not merely based on affordability.
“If you talk about Perodua, people will talk about cost of ownership, affordability and so on. But we can’t forever depend on affordability and price. We have a strategy where we want to rebrand Perodua vehicles to ‘quality’ and the sharing of technology to normal people,” Zainal said.
So, what do you think of the design and preliminary Japanese specs of the Daihatsu New Compact SUV? And how much would you pay for one?
GALLERY: Daihatsu New Compact SUV at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show