Proton Holdings Bhd needs a foreign strategic partner to enable it to expand its overseas markets by producing high-quality cars and strengthen its position in the long run.
Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani said it was time for Proton to stand on its own feet after 32 years of government supervision.
"The strategic partner can help enhance Proton's technology and ability to compete in the international markets and produce high-quality cars," Johari told reporters after launching 'Aplikasi Mobile Semakan BR1M' (BR1M Mobile App Checker) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Dismissing an allegation Proton would sell a 51 percent stake to a foreign automaker, he said the government viewed seriously the national carmaker's position as the company and its subsidiaries had provided plenty of jobs to locals.
"The Proton ecosystem is important to the government. If it is not managed well, the jobs created will be lost, a situation that the government does not want to happen during the current economic conditions," Bernama quoted Johari (photo) as saying.
Earlier yesterday, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned that selling off the controlling stake in national carmaker Proton to foreigners would not be beneficial for the country.
"My fear is that if we do not own Proton any more the Malaysian automotive industry will suffer a great loss.
"The vendors and suppliers of components will close shop. Lots of workers will lose their jobs. And Malaysia’s engineering capacity will be reduced," Mahathir wrote on his blog.
Consequently, he said, Malaysia would not be a developed country by 2020 or even later, and that Malaysia would remain a Third World developing country.
Mahathir, who was Proton's adviser after stepping down as prime minister in 2003 until 2016, said he was sad that the firm now had to be sold to foreigners.
"Having a strategic partner is okay. But once Proton is sold to foreigners it will cease to be a national car.
On Feb 10, Johari was reported as saying that the government has no issue over DRB-Hicom Bhd relinquishing its 51 percent stake in Proton Holdings Bhd to pursue a foreign strategic partnership (FSP).
Johari said it was better for a Malaysian origin car to become a well-known international brand, rather than stay domestic and sell between 200,000 and 300,000 units, which is not sustainable.
"The key is to bring many investors to Malaysia and create employment," Johari told reporters at the Malaysian Retail Chain Association Chinese New Year celebration.