Recent news of prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying that Malaysia has aspirations to start a new national car project attracted a fair bit of attention from the public. Now, the premier has revealed a bit more information about the suggested project in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review.

In a previous report, Mahathir stated that Proton was no longer a national car brand after it was sold to the Chinese. In June 2017, Zhejiang Geely (ZGH) acquired a 49.9% stake in the national carmaker from DRB-Hicom following the signing of a definitive agreement, which was followed by some corporate restructuring.

During the interview, Mahathir was asked if he would consider buying back the carmaker’s shares sold to the Chinese, to which he replied, “actually Malaysia still has the majority share of 51% (actually 50.1%). I don’t know what the agreement is reached between the buyer and seller. We had hoped that we would be able to market the car in China.”

“But the company believes that Malaysia (can) produce only a right-hand drive car and it should confine itself to the right-hand drive market, which means we have no access to the huge market in China. That will limit our growth. We hope, of course, to be able to produce a new car which will conform to the Euro 5 or Euro 6 emission standards, so that we can have access to the world market, even if we cannot penetrate China,” he added.

Geely had earlier stated that the Proton brand would be expanded and possibly be used for ASEAN exports, with Malaysia being its right-hand drive hub.

Focusing on the proposed new national car project, Mahathir said such a company would be different and would look to Japan for some cooperation initially. “Like the first national car (brand), which started with only 18% local content (and cooperation from) Mitsubishi Motor, we were able to master the whole process of building the car, from design to clay-model and test car,” he explained.

“Today, modern technology is based more on sensors and other things. We need to acquire that also. But initially, we want just to build a car first for the Malaysian market, and then for the world market,” he added.

Do you agree with Tun Mahathir’s comments? Is a new national car project something that we need? Share your thoughts in the comments below.