HANGZHOU: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed hope that the strategic partnership between Proton and Chinese car manufacturer Geely would accelerate the process of improving Proton cars.
He noted that the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group had made tremendous progress in terms of producing quality cars despite entering the business of vehicle production much later than Proton.
“When Proton was first produced, Geely was nowhere around. We sent six Proton cars here (to China), and we were very proud of our achievement.
“But as you know, Geely has outstripped us in terms of quality and productivity of your industry. And I think Proton can benefit from working together with Geely,” he said.
He was speaking after witnessing the signing of an agreement between Proton and Geely, at the Geely headquarters here today.
Dr Mahathir is on a five-day official visit to China that will also take him to Beijing.
Dr Mahathir was also hopeful that the engineering knowledge to be gained from this partnership would help Malaysia improve its products such as cars.
The prime minister pointed out that the automotive industry was always improving in terms of technology and quality and Proton had followed suit in this respect, improving on the design and quality of its cars.
"The present cars are actually marketable in many places," he said, adding that they could not be marketed in many western countries because the vehicles did not conform to Euro 5 emission standards.
"But we believe that if we obtain a new engine and we improve the quality of the cars, we would be able to market and compete with other brands as well. Working with Geely would accelerate the process of bringing improvements to Proton cars," Dr Mahathir said.
To a question, he said that based on what he had seen, Geely, which holds a 49.9 per cent stake in Proton, is capable of producing electric cars together with Proton for the ASEAN market and beyond.
The pact inked by the two companies today is for the setting up of a joint venture, paving the way for Proton to assemble and market its cars in China.
Dr Mahathir acknowledged that Proton had been trying to get into the Chinese market for quite some time.
"But we produce right-hand drive cars that are not acceptable in China, so we need to produce left-hand drive cars, preferably in China because the cost here seems to be lower than in Malaysia.
"Besides, I think that we need quality cars and those that will be produced by Proton together with Geely will be of a better quality than what we presently have in Malaysia," the prime minister said.
Proton Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar said the venture includes the setting up of a vehicle assembly and production facility in China and the development of a network of dealers to market Proton vehicles in this country.
"Geely's entry as a strategic partner of Proton has paved an easier route for Proton's entry into the lucrative Chinese market," he said of the country, which has a population of over 1.3 billion people.
Lotus and Volvo are among other marques in Geely's stable. The company also holds a substantial stake in Daimler, which produces Mercedes-Benz.
During the tour of the Geely headquarters, Dr Mahathir test-drove three vehicles including an electric car.
Later, he took a high-speed train from this city to Shanghai, a journey of about 150 km, before taking a flight to Beijing to continue with the second leg of his visit. - Bernama © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd