‘Just forget about Vision 2020’, Dr M says amid icy reception over new national car

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today Malaysia will just become a ‘nation of consumers’ if its people are unwilling to take a risk and set up a second national car. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Malaysia will just become “a nation of consumers” if its people are unwilling to take a risk and set up a second national car, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

This comes amid mixed feedback regarding the prime minister’s proposal to come up with a second national car.

In a blog post, Dr Mahathir said that he has been informed that Malaysians have enough of Proton that was supposedly branded as a failed national car project.

He said he had been told that people had enough of Proton that was supposedly deemed a failure and are unwilling to see another national car brand being set up.

“Just forget about Vision 2020,” he wrote.

“Malaysia would become a nation of consumers, of paddy farmers, and of fishermen. No matter, this is what we want and what we will get,” he said.

Last month, Dr Mahathir said the Pakatan Harapan government was looking to introduce a new national car, as Proton, that was founded by him in 1983, had been bought by Chinese automotive manufacturer Geely last year.

Dr Mahathir also said that Malaysia might start the national car brand with another country — namely Thailand, South Korea or Japan.

“But we are already rejecting the idea of a second national car early on, and thereby, stop any suggestion of having the private sector produce cars. Surely, the government will not have a government-owned automotive industry,” Dr Mahathir argued today, defending his proposal.

He pointed out how post-war Japanese cars had been made fun of in the past due to its poor quality; so much so that it was compared to “Milo tins” back then.

But these cars eventually became giants in the automotive industry. Dr Mahathir said this was because Japan and South Korea had barred the import of foreign cars.

This, in effect resulted in the improvement of locally-produced cars which were eventually exported.

“But surely this will not happen with Malaysia. Our cars will continue to be made with Milo tins forever... No matter the type of car, its country of origin, whether it is of good quality of the ‘Milo tin’ variety; can all be brought into Malaysia. These are produced by giants and filled the Malaysian car market until Proton is buried.

“In the end, Proton is sold to foreigners. There is no more national car, no more automotive industry. Workers, engineers, managers have lost their jobs. Everything deteriorates,” Dr Mahathir said.