Proton Press Conference Tun Mahathir 1

At a press conference at the Proton Design Competition 2015 prize-giving ceremony earlier today, Proton chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke of his disappointment at the government for not providing a level playing field for Proton to compete, but instead was encouraging the sale of foreign cars in Malaysia.

The former premier added that the government has removed all protection previously afforded to national carmakers like Proton. “We are very open in that we accept cars coming from anywhere,” he said. “However, the countries that are exporting cars to Malaysia impose conditions which prevent Proton cars from being imported.”

Among the claimed advantages possessed by foreign carmakers, he notes that some models tend to flout some of Malaysia’s regulations. “We find that some foreign cars were actually exempted from [government] conditions until we pointed out that it’s wrong, that they are encouraging foreign cars, not local cars,” he said. “We meet with all the conditions imposed by the government but there is no government support for us.”

Mahathir also said that other big carmakers had the ability to produce cheap cars because they had the volume to do so, producing millions a year when Proton only makes 200,000 units annually at the most. He also touched on the continuous blame put on Proton regarding the high car prices in the country, adding that the public should instead realise that it is the government that wants to tax motorists.

“The government wants [us to build] RM25,000 cars, but to do that in Malaysia is not possible because we need certain things which are costly. We have to import those things, we don’t produce those things,” he said. “We have to design and produce. Each car that is built needs 4,000 parts. We have to manufacture practically all the 4,000 parts and then design and put them together. It’s not been easy.”

He also feels that there is a campaign by certain quarters to discourage Malaysians from buying Protons. “In certain media they will tell you, don’t buy Proton. Buy foreign cars, of course,” he said.

In addition, Mahathir said that Perodua does not have the kind of local content that Proton has. “Our local content is more than 90%,” he said. “From the beginning to the end, from the ideas, the design, the clay models, testing, everything is done by Proton. That’s because we believe we must do it ourselves if we want to acquire engineering know how.”

He added that Proton has spent its own money in developing hybrid and electric vehicles, even though it did not receive funding for research and development (R&D) it was supposed to get from the government. “Our EV is an ordinary car with an electric motor but it does 313 km per charge – which is not achieved by other EVs, even though those EVs are specially built for using an electric motor and are lighter,” he said.

“I feel very satisfied that Malaysians have acquired the skills to build a car. Believe me, lots of people are coming to Proton – not to big companies – to learn how to build their national cars,” Mahathir concluded. “But until now no third-world country has ever built a national car.”