Malaysia's DRB-Hicom Bhd this week began operating a new paint shop at its vehicle assembly plant in Pekan, in Pahang state.

The conglomerate's wholly-owned subsidiary, Hicom Automotive Manufacturers, builds and distributes international brands such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Suzuki and Fuso, mainly for local sale.

The company also has distribution and dealer networks in the country for brands including Honda, Isuzu and Proton.

DRB-Hicom has just sold a 49.9% stake in Malaysia's first national car company, Proton Holdings, to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, allowing it to focus more on assembly of other brands and on its distribution and retail business.

The company spent MYR230m (US$54m) on the new automated paint shop which has doubled capacity to 50,000 units per year.

The company said the automated paint system reduces primer and top coat application time by 50% compared with the previous manual system while reducing wastage. The quality of the coatings has also improved significantly with the new system, it added.