What You Think

Free, finally — Tay Tian Yan

MAY 28 — I was in Seoul last week listening to a briefing by a Korean scholar who mentioned about the South Korean economy, including the development of its automotive industry that reminded me of our own Proton.

Point number one: South Korea's top automobile brands Hyundai and Kia sold almost 7.88 million cars globally, a large part of this to the international market, with China and the US making up the bulk of it.

Together, the two carmakers only sold about 1.2 million cars domestically, or 15 per cent of the total.

This tells us that even for an economy the size of South Korea, the automotive industry will still need to depend on international market and not domestic market alone.

Proton today sells about 80,000 cars a year, just a fraction of Hyundai and Kia. To make things worse, it almost has zero oversea market.

No market, no sale, no capital and technology, and therefore no future.

To count on only 15 per cent of Malaysia's domestic market to keep the national carmaker alive is a wild dream, in fact Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's unfulfilled dream.

Point number two: South Korea's car-making industry used to thrive on only the domestic market. In the past, you would see only Hyundai and Kia running in the streets of Seoul, but today, imported cars are everywhere, from Germany's Volkswagen, Audi, BMW to America's Ford, General Motors to Japan's Toyota and Honda.

The national car market share used to be as high as 80 per cent at one point. Today, it is merely 60 per cent.

In the past Koreans treated buying locally made cars as a national obligation, something they would take tremendous pride in. Not today, especially among the youngsters who fancy driving imported cars.

Proton is not much different. We used to see Protons running all over the country. Buying Proton was something Malaysians, in particular the kampung folks, would feel very proud of.

If there is anyone who still thinks this way today, that must be our Mahathir.

Mahathir wrote in his tearful blog article that he would cry for the loss of his “child” and soon his country.

I was thinking, other than Mahathir who would cry over Proton, the rest of the country would just smile.

Car-making industry and nationalism are two very different things. Forcing the two together will not make things happen but will ruin them instead.

Proton's loss is also the loss of the nation and her people. Endless assistance and subsidy to Proton will only sacrifice the country's invaluable resources which could be otherwise used for more productive purposes and not dropped into this bottomless black hole.

Supporting an impractical car-making industry through nationalism will hurt the country, a reality Mahathir is still reluctant to come to terms with today.

Selling Proton's share to China's Geely will de-peg Proton from the national car label and dissociate it from the country. Proton will have to stand on its own feet from now on.

Proton is finally free, 30 years on! — Sin Chew Daily

This article was first published here

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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