MEETING ASPIRATIONS: National carmaker living up to its reason for existence
ONE cannot help but wonder whether Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff was sounding a gentle reminder to the new owner of the company he once helmed, of the raison d'être for Proton.
Speaking to reporters at a Roundtable High Level Strategy Session organised by the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week, the former chief executive officer of Proton Holdings Bhd gave a general reminder to Malaysian companies to invest in research and development (R&D).
Tengku Mahaleel lamented that local companies, government-linked companies included, do not pump enough money into R&D. Many, according to Tengku Mahaleel, are happy using foreign intellectual property rights, resulting in outflow of money.
Of course Proton is not one of these companies. Since the national carmaker started 25 years ago, it has produced over a dozen models and sold over three million cars.
Most of these cars have very high local content, a result of its huge investment in R&D. Take, for example, its most technologically-advanced model to date, Prevé (pronounced pray-vay).
Sharing the same platform as the Exora, the Prevé was designed, engineered and built by Proton’s own engineering team, in collaboration with several world-renowned parties.
It uses up to 94 per cent of components sourced from local vendors, proving that locals are able to engineer and manufacture world-class products.
Of course, it comes with a hefty price, but the investment is worth every sen that was spent. The development of indigenous R&D capabilities — by producing world-class products like Prevé — will go along way into moving the country notches up the technological ladder.
This is by the way is the reason for existence of Proton when the Cabinet approved the national car project in 1982.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has explained this best in an interview with Bloomberg.
“By itself, a national car is not a need. We could buy cheaper cars by importing them. An automotive industry generates a lot of engineering skills and it can give us a lot of the other businesses,” he was quoted as saying.
Proton has, over the years, helped produce a large pool of trained and talented engineers in Malaysia, many of whom specialised in diverse and highly-specialised areas, including automotive, materials and design engineering.
This pool of talent has made possible the production of Prevé, Proton’s most technologically-advanced vehicle offered to the market to date.
For some, it maybe cheaper and profitable to launch a car model based on a proven foreign make. But this would be a cop-out, a failure to meet the aspirations of the people.
Hopefully, Proton would continue to live up to the people’s aspirations and its own, which is to drive the country’s transformation into a global leader in technology and quality.