KUALA LUMPUR: The launch of the all-new Proton Perdana could usher in a new era of innovation and growth for the national carmaker, free of political interference.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that in the past, Proton had flourished only due to a high level of government help, aided by protectionism.
The latest changes within Proton,he said, has signified an end to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's era of political interference.
Noting that the government had approved a loan of RM1.5 billion to Proton Holdings in April, the prime minister reiterated his commitment to protect the company’s workers and suppliers, but made clear that he expected Proton to address structural flaws within the company.
“The urgent need for the cash injection laid bare the fact that there are serious structural flaws within Proton.
“Some of these go back a long way,” he said at the launch of the new Proton Perdana at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre this morning.
Najib said questions had been asked if the business model for Proton was flawed from the start.
He said some had also said that Malaysia was not a large enough market for a national car manufacturer.
“Proton flourished, yes, but only due to a very high level of government help.
“Our car industry grew under the umbrella of protectionism, with quotas on engine sizes and Malaysians paying high import duties on foreign cars.”
Najib said the protectionism offered to Proton led to a belief that the company could do anything because the government would always back it.
“There has been too much political interference in Proton’s strategy, management – including of personnel – and business model.
“We saw the results of that early this year. A manufacturer which should be a source of national pride was facing a very difficult situation,” he said.
Najib said this forced the government to step in, “to protect Malaysian jobs, to protect Malaysian families who rely on Proton, and to protect the company’s business partners’ income and livelihoods.”
Stressing that the government will never fail to support Malaysian workers and suppliers, he said: “We will always fight to ensure that no one is left behind.
“Now, I am pleased to say, there have been significant changes at the top levels of Proton.
“Tun Mahathir’s era of political interference has come to an end.”
Going forward, the Prime Minister stressed that Proton needs to ensure it has a sustainable business model and immediately identify a strategic foreign partner.
He said the government was more than willing to work hand in hand with the private sector to promote enterprise, development and the growth of Malaysian businesses.
“But if the government supports industries and companies, there have to be results.
“We cannot put the people’s money into ventures that cannot support themselves.”
The Proton Perdana, now in its fourth generation, was developed via a strategic collaboration with Honda Japan Ltd.
It is priced at RM113,888 for the 2.0 variant and RM138,888 for the 2.4 variant.
The car is available in six colours – Ruby Red, Sterling Silver, Graphite Grey, Cotton White, Midnight Black and Citrine Gold.
DRBHCOM (1619) - Najib: Era of political interference within Proton now over