Father of Proton the Woolly Mammoth

(Tanjak) – The sudden sale of MV Agusta Motors was a political death warrant bearing the legend ‘Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’ — signed by the PM’s tormentor, the Doctor in the House.

Proton had bought Augusta, maker of Italian motorbikes, in 2004.

A year later, Augusta was sold for the sum of one euro. The fire sale had incensed Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was then Proton Holdings Bhd advisor.

(He later assumed chairmanship of the company but resigned the post last year, shortly after quitting Umno.)

Now we have Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz calling Proton Dr M’s “failed white elephant”. What a double-barrelled putdown of Tun’s pet project!

The irreverent Nazri is generally perceived to be a stalking horse for Najib Razak.

Hence in the eyes of the affronted ex-premier, disposing Proton’s majority stake to a foreign buyer will somehow be entirely the fault of Najib, his bete noire.

Visualize how poor Dollah Badawi had been raked over hot coals in relation to the disposal of MV Augusta. What will the enraged white elephant keeper do to Najib with regard to selling off the biggest chunk of Proton?

The last of Tun’s mega project legacy

Is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad merely saddened by the impending fate of his protected species Proton?


He’s livid.

Tun blogged last week in Che Det, “I am sad that Proton is to be sold to foreign companies. Having a strategic partner is ok. But once Proton is sold to foreigners it will cease to be a national car.”

Proton is the symbol of Tun’s ambition for the automotive sector to drive Malaysia into heavy industry.

Although the plan is just to have the majority share-holding taken over by a more dynamic partner, nonetheless to Tun it is akin to sending Proton to the elephant graveyard.

That’s why Tun is livid. After all, he has nurtured the car’s growth for 34 years.

(Feasibility study for Proton was carried out in 1980; the company was incorporated in 1983 and the first Saga rolled off the assembly line in 1985.)

But Tun easily forgets.

In the first place – and this is a very important point – Proton is a private company. It is owned by DRB Hicom. Yet Tun keeps complaining that the government is not supporting Proton enough.

Secondly the company has been slipping in and out of the red. When Proton makes profits, it is to the financial benefit of its vested interests. When Proton makes losses, taxpayers are called upon to underwrite subsidies or R&D grants worth billions and billions.

Thirdly, Malaysians have for too long been coerced to buy Proton in the name of national pride and through other means of arm-twisting.

Not only were/are imported cars deliberately made too expensive, they still had to go through the AP process — an NEP mechanism holdover from the 1970s.

These layers of tariff rendered imported cars generally more pricey than what identical models cost in other countries as to be beyond our purchasing power.