PETALING JAYA: Malaysians have had a mixed reaction to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement that the Government intends to launch a new national car company.
Speaking during a dialogue at the 24th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia on Monday, the Prime Minister said the new Government is thinking of starting another national car, perhaps with an Asian country such as Thailand, South Korea or Japan as a partner.
This did not go down well with everyone, with some urging for more focus on public transport.
Within minutes of the news, SK Teo created a petition titled “We should not have a national car at this point in time”, earning only five signatures out of its 100-person goal within an hour.
Teo argued that more should be done to improve public transport and road conditions, but also asked for car import taxes to be reduced.
On Facebook, Md Haris only had a gentle reminder to offer: “Country debt 1 trillion.”
Many more spoke up for the need to instead improve public transport for the people, with Kim Guan Chuan saying that the number of cars on the roads should be reduced.
“Every day, most of the roads are choked with cars, wasting time and money,” he added.
Karthikeyan Rajamohan said the MRT 3 rail transit project should be reconsidered instead of having a “Proton 2.0”.
Noni Jelani questioned the wisdom of the proposed idea: “So this is the reason why he scrapped public transportation project. To make new car. Do we need this right now?”
In Muhammad Nasruddin’s opinion, the move would be a waste of money: “Why la … better you build MRT 3, much more better.”
Daljeet Kaur said “one failed national car” is more than enough proof that Malaysia does not need another one.
“We need proper public transport to JB (Johor Baru) and Singapore. The train to JB is terrible. Fulfil your manifesto and don’t simply start projects that benefit no one,” she added.
Another commenter, Joel Lim, expressed alarm at the idea.
“Please stop! No more national car company please. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We had enough trying to beat a dead horse. Let private companies make cars.
“Don’t do just for the sake of doing. Our market is too small,” he cautioned.
However, Revathi Murugan said it was a good idea to have a new national car for Malaysia.
“This time, look into a better safety features with stronger chassis and frame. Create back job opportunity and develop nation for a better future ... why limit Malaysians and their capabilities?” she said.
Andy Tan said Malaysia cannot rely on its oil and gas revenue to drive the economy, and hoped that the country would groom its own technology and expertise for a more “Made in Malaysia" production.
“We need our own industrial establishment, the challenge is the implementation. We failed before, but doesn’t mean we will fail again, let’s believe it this time … it is very difficult, but we have to do this,” he said, emphasising the need for transformation.
Others were wary of the cost of protectionist measures.
The idea received a resounding “No” from Louis Lai, who said the rakyat would not accept the move.
“This will make the other car prices go up! Because need to protect them again!!! We rakyat don't want this kind of protected industry! We want car price low!” he said.
Jason Ng called the idea another mega bailout in the making: “Don't you remember the Proton bailout, Tun M?”
However, Ann Lin did not mind the project, so long as additional taxes on foreign cars were removed.
Proton, which Dr Mahathir launched three decades ago, has been bought over by China’s Geely.