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Recently-appointed Proton chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that the national car company is in talks with several Japanese carmakers regarding future collaborations, according to a Bernama report.

He added that any strategic collaboration is unlikely to include Mitsubishi, which is already manufacturing the ASX at Tan Chong Motor Assemblies’ Segambut plant.

“We are looking at other Japanese automotive makers. Right now we are cooperating with Honda,” Dr Mahathir said. “Proton’s performance can be improved and we will look closely at how we can continue to export our cars.

“We are going to look closely at the countries that we can export our cars (to) so that the production can be increased as we have a big production capacity, which is not utilised,” the former PM said, adding that as the Malaysian car market is small, Proton will have to focus on exports in order to expand.

Dr Mahathir also said that Proton would like to invite Japanese carmakers to come to Malaysia as the national car company had quite a big part of its production plant to offer to any investor who had the desire to produce cars in Malaysia, Bernama reported.

In a keynote address the Proton founder was delivering at a seminar entitled “Investment and Trade Opportunity in Kedah,” he said Japanese carmakers could look at Kedah, where an automotive hub was being planned.

“In Kedah, Japanese investors can benefit from the good labour force and the supply of rubber materials from both Malaysia and (neighbour) Thailand,” he added.