KUALA LUMPUR – Not content with his claim of being Proton’s “chief tester”, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he had also sought to direct the carmaker in its choice of engines and vehicle designs.
In a blog post today, however, the former prime minister said his ideas were rebuffed by the carmaker.
“I tried to upgrade Proton’s engine. But Proton refused,” he wrote, saying he believed Volvo engines would have given Proton an advantage in the European market.
“I also wanted to make pick-up trucks. Proton not only rejected that, but also disagreed with selling 1,000 Proton Preve of buyers who were willing to shift from sedans to pick-ups.”
It is unclear how much influence the former Proton chairman ultimately had on the company’s direction over the decades.
Last week, the former prime minister claimed he was Proton’s “chief tester” for all its cars during the development and marketing stages, although he did not say how much of his input, if any, was incorporated into the production models.
His remarks follow lamentations on his blog regarding the sale of a minority stake in Proton to Chinese automaker Geely.
After his criticism, Dr Mahathir was reminded of his own attempts to court Geely in 2014.
Today, Dr Mahathir insisted again that Proton was no longer a national car.
“Stop defending (and saying) that we still have a national car. Cars belonging to others, and are manufactured and made a success by them cannot be considered national cars,” he said when insisting that Geely’s minority stake did not mean it will take a backseat in Proton’s operations.
Proton and Geely announced last week that the latter was acquiring a 49.9-per cent stake in the former.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani stressed that Proton would remain a national carmaker and a source of pride as DRB-Hicom still holds the majority stake at 50.1 per cent.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also said that Proton was on track to lose RM1 billion annually if it is not restructured.
Proton was set up by Dr Mahathir in 1983 and remains the poster child of the former prime minister’s industrialisation policies.
– Malay Mail