PUTRAJAYA: Proton suffered because of protectionism and â€œtoo muchâ€ political interference during former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamadâ€™s tenure as company chairman, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
â€œProton is not currently in the position that it should be. It lacks the right research and development ability and the production scale required to remain competitive.
â€œIt flourished, yes, but only due to a high level of government help. Our car industry grew under the umbrella of protectionism, with quotas on engine sizes and high import duties on foreign cars.
â€œThere has been too much political interference in Protonâ€™s strategy, management and business model.
â€œNow, I am pleased to say, there have been significant changes at the top levels of Proton. Tun Mahathirâ€™s era of political interference has come to an end,â€ said the Prime Minister.
He added that it was time for Proton and the Government to learn from the lessons of the past and for reforms to be put in place for the company to get back on track.
Najib stressed that to move forward, Proton needed to ensure it has a sustainable business model and to immediately identify a strategic foreign partner.
He said the RM1.5bil soft loan to Proton approved in April was not a bailout but subject to â€œstrong conditionsâ€.
â€œProton must prove itself, both in the domestic and international markets.
â€œIt must build up a strong export programme and become less reliant on Malaysian buyers.
â€œThere have to be results. We cannot put the peopleâ€™s money into ventures that cannot support themselves,â€ he said.
Najib asked that the new Proton Perdana and new management be judged on their merits.
â€œI am told that in anticipation of its launch, 900 units of the Perdana were pre-booked, which shows the confidence that people have in this new model, and their desire for Proton to succeed.
â€œProtonâ€™s new management tells me they are confident that customers will not only like the Perdanaâ€™s elegant looks, they will also love the drive.
â€œI am looking forward to getting behind the wheel myself,â€ he said, as the crowd applauded.
Also present at the launch were International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan.