China-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group are about to buy a 49.9% stake in Proton Holdings Bhd from DRB-Hicom Bhd – and the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia is not impressed.
Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and the longest-serving PM (between 1981 and 2003), has often been credited as the man who made the brand succeed: “Proton is my brainchild. Now the child of my brain has been sold.” He posted on his Facebook account that
“I am a sissy. I cry even if Malaysians are dry-eyed. My child is lost. And soon my country… Please excuse me.”
The sale of the loss-making Malaysian car company – it recorded RM1 billion net loss for the financial year ending 31 March 2016 – will likely be confirmed in July. As part of the deal, Geely will receive 100% of Proton’s stake in Lotus, the British sports car manufacturer.
The future of Proton
Dr. Mahathir managed to stay upbeat about the general fortune of the brand – in fact, he seemed more disappointed in the loss of a chance to revive the company, which he believes will do well with foreign backing.
Indeed, Geely has a proven track record with the industry, as it already owns Volvo and The London Taxi Company, and so this deal may well turn the Proton brand into a world leader, or as Mohamad out it, “With money and superior technology it will compete with Rolls Royce and Bentley.”
If not a global company, this will definitely expand Proton’s presence in Asia and DRB-Hicom have said that it is already looking for an international partner for Proton. Among the potential partners, experts have suggested that PSA, the owner of Peugeot and Citroen could be a good match. This could prove especially useful the right-hand drive markets here in Asia.
Singapore all over again
Hopefully the growth of the company will not overpower the presence of the national Malaysian brand name. DRB-Hicom group managing director, Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar confirmed that the intention “was always to ensure the revitalisation of the Proton nameplate.”
Sadly, even this may be too little for Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, who likened selling Proton to losing Singapore in 1957, stating:
“I am sure Proton will do well. It will be a commercial success… It will be like Singapore. Malaysians are proud of this great city-state. But I cannot be proud of its success. I cannot be proud of the success of something that does not belong to me or my country.”
He concluded by threatening that if such behaviour continued, Malaysians would end up selling their whole country, and any success that the country enjoyed would be something for Malaysia to be proud of:
“And eventually we will lose our country, a great country no doubt, but owned by others.”
Powerful words. Do you agree with Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad? Leave your comments below!