Sometime this month, local assembly of Citroen models at the AMM plant near Pekan, Pahang, will come to an end as the last units of the Xantia are completed. However, this does not mean the end of Citroen assembly altogether as it is only a transitional period before a new model is assembled.
The Xantia is the fourth model to be assembled at the plant, which belongs to the DRB-Hicom group. The first model assembled was the CX (only a small number) in 1986, followed by the BX in the late 1980s, the ZX in 1993 and the Xantia in 1995. According to a source at the plant, the model which had the highest volume was the ZX.
Confirming that Citroen assembly is about to cease, albeit temporarily, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Mohd Saleh bin Sulong, DRB-Hicom Bhd Chairman, said that the decision on what model to make would be up to Directional (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (also part of DRB-Hicom) and its principal, Citroen.
“It could be any of the many models that Citroen is now producing or even the new one which we have been told will be unveiled at the Paris Motorshow later this year,” he said. “The only thing is that it usually takes a while before righthand drive versions – which we need for Malaysia – are available as Citroen starts producing only for the lefthand drive market first.” Most likely, the next model will be the Xsara, presently being sold by Directional Malaysia as a Completely Built-Up (CBU) import.
“As far as AMM is concerned, they are the contract assembler and can handle any model. After all, they have been doing all types of vehicles from the small Tiara to the big TATA lorries so they have the facilities, the
equipment and the experienced manpower,” he added.
Besides the Citroen models, AMM has also been assembling the Citroen AX-based Proton Tiara (production ended late last year) and was to have continued with a successor based on the Citroen Saxo (PS8). However, that seems unlikely to happen now as negotiations between Proton and Citroen have stalled.
Proton CEO Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel is on record as having said that the package is unacceptable to Proton and the company does not want to proceed further (according to a Proton source, the package offered is not commercially viable).
For AMM, Proton’s decision not to make the Tiara’s successor means much wasted investment. Back in 1998, AMM established an additional line at a very substantial cost (“many millions of ringgit”, according to a senior AMM executive) and it now lies unused. When Autoworld.com.my was at the plant recently, the assembly hall for the model was empty and only a solitary unpainted prototype bodyshell stood at the end of the line.
It’s a pity that AMM does not have a chance to build the model as it would be helped to prove that the ‘unfortunate’ experience with the Tiara was not due to the plant itself. Autoworld.com.my understands that the significant quality issues that tarnished AMM’s image were mainly due to the development having been rushed and insufficient time for the vendors who had to quickly make various parts locally.
“Our plant is certainly as good, if not better, than the other local assembly plants. Not only are we ISO 9002-certified by SIRIM and the Vehicle Certification Agency of UK but we also have ‘Conformity of Production Requirements’ certificate from the same UK agency Agency which means our cars’ quality meets the strict requirements for vehicles exported to Europe,” noted the CEO of AMM, Dato’ Ir Haji Wan Abdul Ghaffar Wan Ahmad. He was referring to the Proton Satrias assembled at the plant which are exported to UK and many other countries.