Again pitching for third national car, Dr M says to take a leaf from China

Leslie Lau
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad renewed arguments today for his idea of a third national car by using China’s success as an example. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

BEIJING, Aug 19 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad renewed arguments today for his idea of a third national car by noting that China was not only a major automobile producer but was now the “factory to the world”.

Malaysians, on the other hand, are embarrassed to produce anything with a local name and are content with being consumers rather than makers, he said.

“China has grown quickly. They are the factory of the world because they have a different attitude.

“In the end, producers win and consumers send money outside their country,” he said at a lunch dialogue here with Malaysian businessmen in China.

Dr Mahathir is on a four-day visit to China, during which he has been hosted by Alibaba’s Jack Ma as well as Proton’s shareholder, Geely.

Yesterday, Dr Mahathir secured Geely’s agreement to sell Proton cars in China.

“We always presume the best come from other countries. There is a difference in attitude between China and Malaysia.

“We want to consume we object to a third national car. China wants to know how to produce,” he said when pointing out that China now made more cars than the US and Europe combined.

The PM then suggested Malaysians have an inferiority complex that led them to shun locally-made products in the belief that these were of low quality.

Dr Mahathir said Malaysian companies even preferred to use words that sounded European in naming their brands. He included Proton as an example of such attitudes, and suggested the company would not have sold many cars if it used its full Malay name: Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional.

“Bonia is Malaysian. I thought it was Italian,” he said, pointing out that Malaysians would typically reject local sounding names.

Dr Mahathir said Malaysia should concentrate on producing goods of superior quality that were in demand globally.

The prime minister has pushed repeatedly for Malaysia to start another national car project, to the dismay of some sections of the country who do not want a return to the protectionism characteristic of Proton’s prime.

He reacted to this coldly by telling Malaysia to abandon its ambitions to be a developed nation if it is so averse to his idea.

Proton was set up by Dr Mahathir in 1983 and remains the epitome of the former prime minister’s industrialisation policies.

It came under the private ownership of the DRB-HICOM group in 2012, which subsequently sold a 49.9 per cent stake to Geely in 2017.

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