Having a new national car project would help Malaysia boost its engineering capability, according to the prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a report by Bernama.

Recalling the early days of Proton, Mahathir said when the first national car project started in the 1980s, Malaysia had no knowledge on how to build cars but gradually acquired the knowledge to design, build and produce cars over time.

“Unfortunately Proton has been sold to the Chinese who have been given the right to manage Proton. So Malaysia now is not making use of those skills,” he said during the conclusion of his working visit to Japan.

Mahathir also added there was a need to provide opportunities for Malaysian engineers in Malaysia, and that a lot of companies had to shut down because they were unable to supply items that met the demands of the new owners or managers of Proton.

“We need to revive them because the whole idea about investing in a national car is not just about building a national car, it’s about becoming a catalyst for growing the Malaysian engineering capability,” said the premier.

“All over the world people are outsourcing parts of motorcars, we can produce parts for branded cars in Malaysia and export them which will earn us a lot of foreign exchange,” he added.

While Mahathir has ambitions to start a new national car project, there is currently no concrete plans to do so. The prime minister previously said that such a project would initially require cooperation with Japan but above all, it must be owned by Malaysians. Nonetheless, Mahathir welcomes proposals for such a project.

“If the proposal is good, we have to give the opportunity to them. However, we don’t want to give the licence to people for them to sell (to another party). This is something that this government will stop. If we give the licence to that person, that person must do the work. If he’s found to be selling the licence to somebody else, we’ll take it back,” he explained.