Three global auto makers confirm investment plans for Malaysia as the Southeast Asian country pushes ahead with its effort to become the regional hub for energy-efficient vehicles.

Malaysian Automotive Institute CEO Madani Sahari says the OEMs have presented their plans to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority.

“The government is OK with it,” Madani tells the Business Times in a report published on the MAI website.

He says three more global auto makers could make similar investments and up to six more could set up a base of operations in Malaysia by 2015, including some not yet established in the region and those who plan to relocate from other parts of the world.

“That is the beauty of our National Automotive Policy (NAP),” Madani says. “The NAP now is not only about attracting new OEMs but is also about attracting other OEMs that have got facilities in other countries.”

He would not name the companies.

“We can't reveal their names now, but they come from all over the world, including Japan,” Madani says.

“Automotive manufacturers which do not have a presence in the region are also keenly waiting for the details of the National Automotive Policy review so as to position themselves in this part of the world.”

The Business Times reports analysts have said the size of the passenger-car segment in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations region is luring automotive giants to set up facilities in this part of the world.

It names Renault, General Motors, Mazda and Chinese companies such as Great Wall and Geely as “waiting to pounce.”

Meantime, Madani says local vehicle sales are expected to hit 638,000 units this year, up from last year’s record 627,000. The MAI forecast is slightly lower than that of the Malaysian Automotive Assn., which projects 2% growth to 640,000.