Dearest Tun Dr Mahathir,
Hope you are in the best of health and continue to contribute remarkably to our nation building.
Somehow I know that this day may come – the day that I have to write publicly as a response to your article in your blog.
Well you see Tun, I am the product from your era and far-sighted policies. I studied in MRSM, I prefer Japanese products rather than European and I look up to you as one of world’s greatest leaders.
I am also a product of Proton and one of those who benefitted from the automotive industry, a field from your brainchild that you had initiated successfully from the 80’s.
Unfortunately, we are human beings and as human, we are far from perfect and we do made mistakes from time to time.
I must say that your latest rambling (last night) about Proton is a mistake, probably due from your anger and frustration.
This is my two cents to your write up, and I hope you will read it and digest this with open mind.
“I am sad that Proton is to be sold to foreign companies. Having a strategic partner is ok. But once Proton is sold to foreigners it will cease to be a national car. It will just be producing foreign cars in Malaysia. That is something we have been doing since the 1970s.”
“My fear is that if we do not own Proton anymore the Malaysian automotive industry will suffer a great loss.”
Well Tun, I am sad too because your vision did not come true. In those days, car companies were rigid and the industry was not as competitive as today.
Now, car companies have different products for different specific region, and they even have sub-brands to ensure they can protect their market share.
We thought that we could export our cars to other countries because we have been producing good and safe vehicle at an affordable price.
The big boys of global automotive players apparently found several ways how to make their products cheaper to produce, and some even came out with their sub-brands to cater for the lower spectrum of the products.
Renault has the Dacia and Logan brand, Nissan reintroduced its Datsun name plate while the big boys like Toyota and Honda both have lower end products that are not only more affordable, but come with up-to-date powertrain and platform.
Even if we can come out with such way, the economies of scale will work against small companies like Proton when it comes to producing spare parts.
It is not feasible to manufacture cars with expensive spare parts, especially when we want to penetrate the foreign markets.
The big companies can produce spare pars at a lower price simply because they have the volume in large numbers. They are huge, up to the point that they can create local vendors in each region for the parts to be available at lower price.
To get a Foreign Strategic Partner or FSP is not as easy as we think. Nobody wants to give up on something they have developed on their own for free. You need a carrot to dangle and in current Proton scenario, I believe it has gone so bad that we need a big carrot to offer.
Even if we have a partner that holds substantial shares in Proton (the company), I do not believe it will be the worst thing, ever.
Thailand has no national car brand but the global industry has labeled our neighbour as the Detroit of Asia.
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