Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that Malaysia has aspirations to start a new national car project. Speaking at the 24th International Conference on The Future of Asia, or Nikkei Conference, in Japan earlier this morning, he said that the aim is to undertake this project in partnership with countries across the region.

He was asked about Geely’s investment in Proton, and explained that since the automaker had gone the Chinese route, it was no longer a national car.

“The national car must be owned by Malaysians. At the very beginning we had a very small investment from Japan, from Mitsubishi Motor Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation, and eventually we were able to manage on our own, but now the company (Proton) has been sold to a Chinese company, (and) it is no longer a national car,” he said.

“Our ambition is to start another national car, perhaps with some help from our partners in SEA like Thailand, and also Japan, Korea and China, because obviously there is the capacity to produce good quality cars which are saleable across the world market, and we want to access the world market,” he added.

He said that Malaysia has the ability to undertake such projects. “We may have to depend on foreign technology and partners at the beginning, but eventually we hope to be able to do everything by ourselves. In the automotive field after we started work with Mitsubishi, today Malaysians have the capacity to do almost 100% of the development of a motor vehicle. That is the benefit we have obtained by having foreign partners,” he stated.

Mahathir has previously voiced his objection towards the sale of a stake in Proton to Geely, but said last month following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the general election that the new federal government had no plans to buy back the national carmaker.

Now, does Malaysia really need a new national carmaker, or Proton 2.0? Read our take here.