PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad voiced his disappointment over the mostly negative response towards the government's initiative for a new national car.
"I am told no one wants to see a second national car. It is enough that Proton is said to be a failure," Tun Dr Mahathir wrote in a blog post on Monday (July 16).
"Malaysians prefer to buy imported cars, including those from China," he wrote rather acerbically. "Their choice is Japanese cars and those with a lot of money (choose) German cars."
Dr Mahathir said countries such as Japan and South Korea discourage the import of foreign cars, and that is the reason behind their high-quality cars.
"I remember Japanese cars right after the war. The consumers said if we scratch it with our nail, we can see (it is made out of) Milo tin," he said.
"However from that 'Milo tin' car comes a variety of the Toyota, Nissan and Suzuki models that we use now."
Dr Mahathir said he is not suggesting that the new national car project be spearheaded by the government as the private sector is already capable of designing and mass producing cars.
"However, because we have rejected the suggestion of a (new) national car, we have already closed off all suggestions for the private sector to produce motor cars," he said.
He said foreign cars monopolised the car market in Malaysia to the point that Proton is "buried" and sold off to foreign entities.
"There is no more national car. No more automotive industry. The workers, engineers, managers don't have jobs anymore," Dr Mahathir said.
He did not refer to Perodua, the second national car company.
"Malaysia would become a country of consumers, paddy field planters and fishermen. Forget about Vision 2020," he said sardonically.
On June 11, Dr Mahathir revealed at the 24th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia the government's plans to work on a new national car.
However, many Malaysians did not respond positively to the suggestion. When the story was posted on the official Facebook page of The Star Online, there were more than 1,000 comments.
Many asked that the public transport system be improved instead, while some pointed out that the country had to learn the lessons of Proton.