Yes, a Pakistan made car is long overdue. The attempt by Feroz Khan was a noble one, but he relied on all the wrong folks, thus the failure. We all know that if an ordinary educated Pakistani decides to do something, he faces dire consequences of bribery, deceit, theft, fraud and above all: The Government. But Khan wasn’t the first victim. Late Khalil-ur-Rehman, a road-side mechanic, in the early 80s introduced a brand named ‘Proficient’, which only built pick-ups at that time. Some sources indicate that they were as good as the imported ones, but the Government instead of giving advantage and motivating the local businessmen to set up local brands in the automotive sector, introduced a policy of concessionary rates on CBU of Suzuki Pick-ups. Hence, Proficient died too.
The designing of the JF-17 was a mutual effort with the Chinese, so is the Al-Khalid Tank. My point is that why are we assembling a jet fighter and a battle tank but we’re importing trucks to transport our tanks and Jet fighter here and there? That does not make sense to me.
The JF-17 and Al-Khalid tank are assembled in Pakistan, not manufactured, I admit. Then that’s my question, where’s my car? Logically, Pakistan should’ve had designed and built a car long before it went on to claim to build a tank and a jet fighter, not the other way round. Creating cheap logistics should’ve been the priority of the armed forces of a poor nation.
Assembly leads to indigenization but why has our Army not been able to reduce its bill of maintenance of vehicles by making trucks and their parts locally? The army’s engineering base maybe strong, but there isn’t any major part locally manufactured. Similarly in the private sector, we can put them all together to assemble a car but we can’t make those critical parts in the drivetrain and electronics.
The only company in Pakistan to have initiated the process of indigenization was National Motors, in the 60s, quite optimistically; National Motors localized 80% of Bedford before they decided to abandon the Country.
The folks in Aasmani wardi made the most of their chance by executing it successfully. However, folks in khaki wardi had their chance as well, the first one in 70s with the Nishan Jeep based on CJ-5 and the later attempt at Yasoob 6×6 & 4×4 truck.
Search for the Army’s attempt at Google and you won’t find a single picture of the said jeep or truck. As if they didn’t ever existed, but what exist are the lessons from the past; the endless tales of corruption, but why didn’t PAF’s JF-17 fall prey to corruption? May be that is yet to happen, I fear, given our long history of repeating a cycle of getting old technology from somewhere, announcing that we are now proficient in it, and then letting it decay into neglect and obsolescence, before repeating the same cycle over and over again.
But I digress.
I am far more interested in cars than planes, tanks and trucks. By now, we should be not only making cars ourselves, we should be designing cars that are more suited to our particular set of demanding conditions. Where are the cars with big oversized radiators that you can idle in a traffic jam with the temperature over 50 degree C and the pavement even hotter than that without overheating? How about cars where the AC actually cools with the sun shining between 9 am to 4 pm on a hot summer day? How about cars with progressive springs that ride comfortably and can also carry all 15 members of a family for chicken karahi at the local hot spot? How about a car that is designed to keep going in water 2 feet deep since we seem to have that in our cities every time it rains?
What I am trying to say is that I read about all the fancy new cars the world over, and I am pained at the thought that we will get these either as hand me down second hand imports for the connected few, or as old technology when they get obsolete 25 years from now and the companies want to sell us their junked equipment? If you think I am joking, just look at the Mehran VXR and its history or the new Suzuki Swift for that instance, the model they launched this year in Pakistan is almost a 7 year old design, also, also, Suzuki has given facelift to the Swift for the world over this year.
It is not like that we as a nation do not have the potential. However, achieving that potential has always eluded us. The South Koreans came to Pakistan in the 60s trying to learn from the model of our development unleashed by the five year plans. They went back, and learned from our teaching so well that we now can look at their industrial output with envy. If we have a history of assembling a great car for its time like the Dodge Dart in the 60s, and Naya Daur Jeeps in the 70s, then the fact that we are not making any good luxury cars or heavy trucks today is a sad tale of how we have lost our potential to corruption, laziness and indifference over the last 40 years or so.
So is the future still as dark and hopeless as our past history tells us? Are we doomed to repeat the cycle once again with our current panel of claimed successes? May be, but I am the eternal optimist.