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KUALA LUMPUR: RHB Research remains bullish on Bermaz Auto Bhd as it plans to refresh the Kia brand and improve its after-sales service following its appointment by the principal.
The research house, which has a "buy" call on Bermaz, noted the distributor's strategy involves positioning the brand to avoid competition with the more established makes.
"Kia Malaysia has indicated that it does not see Kia as a mainstream product, which we think helps avoid the stiff competition with the national marques.
"We think Kia’s exciting new car lineup will appeal to the customer segment sitting between the national marques and the Japanese brands," it said in a report.
Following the recent launch of the seven- and eight-seater CKD variants of the Kia Carnival, RHB said Bermaz's management is upbeat on the substantial pre-bookings for the vehicle, which is one of the many new Kia vehicles in the line-up.
It noted that at a starting price of RM231,000, the Kia Carnival is a cheaper alternative to the Toyota Vellfire/Alphard.
"For now, 33%-owned Kia Malaysia will still be importing the 11-seater CBU Kia Carnival due to local production constraints and supply chain issues.,
"However, Kia Malaysia plans to produce up to 5,000 units of the Kia Carnival pa, for both domestic consumption and exports to Asean markets.
"Once production capacity can meet demand, it will stop importing CBUs. At least 40% of the cost content will be domestic to comply with requirements," it added.
RHB said there were strong backlog orders for the Mazda, Kia and Peugeot brands since end-June but orders have meaningfully slowed down in July, as expected.
It estimates a total current backlog order of about 12,000 across all three brands.
RHB is also more optimistic over Bermaz's social responsibility initiatives, prompting it to raise its environmental, social and governance (ESG) premium to 4% from 2%, leading to an increased target price of RM2.35.
With social responsibility in mind, Bermaz is using the underutilised capacity at the Inokom plant to manufacture the CKD Kia Carnival to create employment in and around Inokom via downstream activities and minimise additional investments, with incremental capex for the CKD operations at about RM30mil, it said.