Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that the government could impose new conditions on imported vehicles in order to prioritise local brands, multiple news sources including The Sun and Malay Mail reported today. The 93-year-old premier claimed that the previous administration had allowed too many foreign vehicles to enter freely without any restrictions, including those of dubious quality.

“We are now very open to accepting foreign brands,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat in response to a query from Ayer Hitam MP Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong about the proposed third national car project. “All cars, even those that are made out of “tin Milo,” are being allowed into Malaysia. But our cars are finding it hard to penetrate many other countries.”

Mahathir added that these relaxed conditions for imports have stunted the growth of the local automotive market, while national carmakers have found it difficult to penetrate other countries due to their own restrictions. “There are a number of factors that had made it difficult for Proton to penetrate the foreign market, which includes strict terms, conditions and policies that have been set by other developed countries.

“That is why we must review the possibility that certain conditions be imposed so that foreign-branded cars won’t make it to our shores that easily,” he said. “And this will give the opportunity for our local cars to enter into our automotive market.”

It should be noted that Malaysia already has a very strict Vehicle Type Approval (VTA) process ensuring that new vehicles for sale to the general public are of a certain safety standard. In recent years the Road Transport Department (JPJ) has ramped up the number of UN-compliant regulations as part of the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP29), which features 133 regulations in total.

As of 2015, the government had already gazetted 77 of these regulations for VTAs, including ECE R94 (40% front overlap crash testing), ECE R95 (side impact crash testing), ECE R66 (bus, coach and truck superstructure strength and roll-over testing) and ECE R43 (safety glass installation and testing). The agency had then aimed to enforce a total of 126 regulations by 2020.

The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) also spearheaded the New Car Assessment Programme for Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN NCAP) to promote safer cars in the region. The government’s efforts are telling, as there isn’t a zero-star car (at least those that have been tested) on sale in Malaysia, and only a single one-star car – the previous-generation Hyundai i10, which dates back to 2012. All other cars tested that are currently on sale in Malaysia are rated four stars or above.

So, what do you think – should the government roll out new restrictions on foreign vehicles, or are current regulations enough to keep out the “tin Milo” vehicles Mahathir is talking about? Sound off in the comments section after the jump.