It’s no secret that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is unhappy about Proton’s stake sale to China’s Geely. But now it has emerged that the founder of Proton may have another go at the national car project should his Pakatan Harapan coalition win in Malaysia’s upcoming general elections.

The former PM and now Pakatan chairman said he has “some ideas about starting another automotive company,” that could become a catalyst for the growth of engineering know-how and capabilities, The Star reports.

“For Proton, various companies were established to manufacture components and parts for the cars. Cars need 4,000 parts, so these provide opportunities for manufacturers,” Mahathir told a forum on China’s investment in Malaysia, before lamenting the Proton stake sale.

“Malaysia is the only developing country that succeeds in creating cars of the same standard as other developed countries. Proton cars have all the features of cars coming in from other countries. The only thing it doesn’t have is that it doesn’t conform to Euro 5 or Euro 6 (standards), which we could have if we are prepared to pay the price,” he said.

In June, after months of proposals and discussions, DRB-Hicom sold a 49.9% stake in Proton to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group for a total of RM460.3 million. The government argues that a foreign partner is necessary for the loss-making carmaker.

“Proton recently sold just 6,000 units a month, which means 72,000 units a year, so how can it be profitable? In the previous year, it lost RM500 million. This year, if there wasn’t any restructuring, it would lose RM1 billion,” prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was quoted as saying in June.

“Last year, the government helped by providing a soft loan of RM1.5 billion, and this year, Proton asked for another RM1.1 billion for R&D (reimbursement). This is the rakyat’s money that is being used to save Proton. We can’t be proud of a national car but still lose billions of ringgit. We must be proud of a national car that is profitable and beneficial to us,” he added.