Monday, March 15, 2010

PROTON'S PROGRESS


As posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at Che Det on March 2, 2010 4:39 PM

1. Since the appointment of Dato Nazmi Salleh as the chairman a lot of improvements have been shown by Proton. It is once again making money. More Proton cars are appearing on the streets, particularly the new Saga, the Persona and the Exora.

2. I was invited to see the new F1 car being developed by Dato Seri Tony Fernandes and Dato Kamaruddin Meranun at the facilities they had acquired in Norwich, England. I had promised to sit in and start the engine of this car if it could be built in the short time they had before the first F1 race in Bahrain in March. I was pleasantly surprised that by the time I arrived on February 22, not only could I sit in the racer and start the engine but the car itself had been undergoing trial races in Spain. They had brought back the car for me to sit in and start the engine. The next day they were to take the car back to Spain for further speed trials.

3. I was glad to see quite a number of Proton engineers working on the production and assembly of the car.

4. The British people were very excited that once again a Lotus car would be in the F1 race. The three drivers were optimistic. The two foreign drivers, Jarno Trulli and Hekki Kovalainen, were very experienced. Fairuz Fauzi our Malaysian driver was the first to test-drive the car in Spain. I hope he would get a chance to drive in the actual race. I wish them the best of luck.

5. My next stop was the Lotus factory where the Elise and Evora sports cars were being produced. Lotus had not done well and was losing money. But the new CEO, Dany Bahar has put new life into the management bringing in experienced people from well-known racing teams and sports car producers.

6. New sports cars were being designed and they looked as good as the Ferraris and the Aston Martins. I test drove a turbo-charged Proton Exora, an electric Tesla which Lotus was building for an American company and the Lotus Evora.

7. A lot of Proton engineers were working with Lotus engineers contributing to the development of Lotus cars.

8. The next day I flew to Turin, Italy to see the lubricant plant which had been bought by Petronas. It was again heartening to see Malaysians among the top executives of the company.

9. The final stop was the design firm of Giugiaro together with Proton which were designing a new small car and a redesigned Persona for Proton. Some 20 Malaysian designers and engineers were working on these projects together with the Italians.

10. It may be remembered that one of the objectives of going into the automotive industry was to develop Malaysia's engineering capability. Seeing all these Malaysians in the development of sophisticated automotive designing and engineering work seems to indicate that we have largely acquired engineering design, development and production to put us on the road to becoming a developed country.

11. Some people said that the price of cars in Malaysia is very high because the Government is protecting Proton. Actually the high price is due to the Government's attempt to discourage petrol guzzling big cars. Whether there is Proton or not Malaysians will pay a high price for their cars. Cheap cars will lead to even worse jams than now.

12. Most people started to own cars only after Proton cars were produced. Such was the increase in the usage of cars that in one 10-year period, Proton cars contributed 18 billion Ringgit towards Government revenue. Considering that the total Government investment was only RM480 million Ringgit in 1984-85, the returns on the investment must be considered very high. The people as a whole must benefit from Government expenditure of this large sum of money.

13. Besides, Proton supports about 300,000 workers, vendors and their families. It produces almost 200,000 cars yearly. If we import foreign cars at RM25,000 per car, the outflow of money would add up to approximately RM5,000,000,000 or five billion Ringgit. Even after deducting some component imports the amount saved in foreign exchange is huge.

14. At one stage there were rumours of an attempt to practically bankrupt Proton so as to sell it off cheaply. This was what happened to Agusta. Proton has assets which the buyers can develop profitably. But I am glad that these are just rumours and no one talks about it anymore. If a person looks at the whole picture he will appreciate that Proton is too valuable an asset to sell for RM4.