By RK Anand
PETALING JAYA: The opposition’s pledge to slash car prices with the abolition of taxes has got tongues wagging, many in support and a few against.
While Pakatan Rakyat claimed that the move would not dent the sales of national carmarkers, their political rivals however foretold doom for Proton and Perodua in the absence of government protection.
Proton was the brainchild of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and its assembly line cranked to life in 1983. It was then a tie-up with Mitsubishi Motors.
While Mahathir, who according to his latest blog posting is sailing along the coast of Italy, had yet to comment on Pakatan’s election drive, he however had in April admitted to turning his back on Proton.
During his term in office, Mahathir, like all other top civil servants, were ferried about in a Proton Perdana Executive.
In a blog posting dated April 12, the former premier said that he had stopped using Proton cars after relinquishing his position in 2003.
Even his car aficionado and businessman son Mokhzani had preferred to steer clear of Proton, opting to be the importer of Porsche models instead.
“I stopped using Proton cars after I stepped down.
“I wanted to enjoy the ‘superior quality’ of the high-end European and Japanese cars,” Mahathir had said, implying that Proton made inferior cars which were not enjoyable to drive.
He said that Proton was known for its cheap cars and the assumption was that it could never produce cars of quality as represented by European, Japanese and even Korean cars.
“The people at Proton are unhappy over this reputation. They feel it is wrong to think that they cannot produce high end cars. It is just that the company policy was to produce run-of-the-mill cars,” he added.
Malaysians, said Mahathir, expected local cars to be cheap but low priced cars cannot possess the quality and the features of the more costly imports.
However, one of the biggest bone of contentions among Malaysians was that Proton and Perodua models were sold cheaper abroad and equipped with better features.
But the same models sold in Malaysia, with a high rate of fatal road accidents, lacked in the safety department compared to the exported models.
Certain quarters had defended this as a business strategy, arguing that the models were priced cheaper abroad in order for market penetration.
But with the international reviews panning these cars despite the added features, it was unlikely that Proton managed to penetrate anything apart from the pockets of the average Malaysian who had to fork out a big sum for a sub-standard car.
In the same blog posting, Mahathir heaped praises on an upcoming Proton model, the Preve, which was equipped with numerous hi-tech features.
“Naturally the price will be higher though probably cheaper than imports with similar features and quality.
“I believe this is a great car and Proton can be proud of it. Malaysians can be proud of it too. The extra Ringgit you have to spend will be worth it,” he added.
Proton became arrogant
Meanwhile, in April as well, Finance twitter dot.com had lamented about the high pricing of cars in Malaysia.
“Dollar for dollar, people are still wondering why locally designed and built cars are still more expensive than imported foreign cars in the same class.
“In the 1.6-litre segment, a latest 2012 Ford Fiesta costs about US$16,000 in the US but a local Proton Persona costs a whopping RM49,000.
“A new 2012 Toyota Camry 2.5-litre in the US costs merely US$30,000 (about RM90,000) but it is costing you a leg and an arm at RM183,000 here,” read its article.
The article stated that Proton reaped huge profits due to the protection offered to it by the government and this had bred arrogance.
“Proton became arrogant and didn’t care about quality so much so that its local buyers were left without any solution for decades about its once-infamous-power-window problem,” it added.
So Proton, just like its mentor Mahathir and defender Barisan Nasional, suffered from a perception crisis and if given a choice, the average Malaysian would opt for a different make.
In view of this, Pakatan’s pledge to slash the taxes had placed the opposition pact in top gear. - FMT