Dr M: Perhaps we’d be better off being an European colony

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has sarcastically suggested that Malaysia may be better off remaining an European colony.

He said this in a blog posting today in defence of national car maker Proton Holdings which its owner DRB-Hicom is in the midst of selling a majority stake to a foreign partner.

“Frankly, Malaysia would be a better country if we stayed as the colony of Europeans or other developed countries.

“They obviously know better than us about governance and the development of countries.

“And they will produce better cars, making us proud of our technology,” said Mahathir, who as prime minister pushed for the manufacturing of local cars through the founding of Proton in 1983.

Mahathir’s statement came amid French car manufacturer PSA Group confirming that it had submitted a bid to Proton.

China-based Geely was also rumoured to have made a bid for a majority stake in Proton but had yet to publicly confirm the matter.

In the 1980s, Proton controlled the lion’s share of all new car owners, comprising 73 percent of cars sold in the country in 1988.

Over the years, there were various complaints about quality and its market share had plunged dramatically.

Last year, Proton’s market share of new vehicles was only 14 percent, trailing local competitor Perodua which controlled 40.3 percent and Japanese car maker Honda at 17.8 percent.

However, Mahathir insisted that Proton has improved significantly.

“Those who condemn Proton cars do so because Proton cars are not of the same standard as foreign cars. I suggest they test-drive the new Saga and Persona.

“I found a lot of differences between the old Protons and the new Protons,” he said.

Mahathir said he owned the old and new Proton cars and had driven them both.

“I think the management, engineers and workers in Proton are to be congratulated for the improvements made.

“I think Proton has learnt something about making cars.”

Proton launched the new Saga and Persona last year and have received respectable reviews.

However, the Perdana and Ertiga, also launched last year but based on rebadged old Honda and Suzuki models, were less popular. – Malaysiakini

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