PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak says the signing of an agreement for a joint venture between Proton and Geely witnessed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday is proof that the previous government’s decision to sell Proton a year ago was the best move for all.
In a Facebook post today, Najib said a total of 60,000 jobs had been saved, with Proton now in a better position for growth.
“If that decision was not made a year ago, I am sure Mahathir would not have been able to witness anything in Geely in China yesterday,” he said.
Mahathir, who is on a five-day official visit to China, had witnessed the signing of an agreement between Proton and Geely at the Geely headquarters in Hangzhou.
The pact inked by the two companies was for the setting up of a joint venture, paving the way for Proton to assemble and market its cars in China.
The prime minister said he was hopeful that the strategic partnership between Proton and Geely would accelerate the process of improving Proton cars.
He also noted that the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group had made tremendous progress in terms of producing quality cars despite entering the business of vehicle production much later than Proton.
However, Najib recalled how Mahathir had accused him of selling the country’s dignity when Proton, which was already owned by a private company, sold 49% of its shares to Geely last May.
“Mahathir, in his writing and speeches, admitted to crying when thinking about how Proton’s shares had been sold to Geely.”
In reality, Najib said, Proton had lost a significant amount of money each year with plunging sales and low exports.
“We were also behind in terms of technology. At the time, Proton was in a critical state to the point where suppliers were not being paid.”
He said Proton’s parent company, DRB-Hicom, had also been hit.
“A restructuring of Proton was needed. The government gave a soft loan of RM1.5 billion to Proton, after which Geely was brought in as a partner.
“At the signing of the agreement, Proton and Geely both agreed to make Proton the export centre for Southeast Asia and also China.”
A year later, Najib said, he was happy to see Proton and Geely fulfilling their promise, witnessed by Mahathir who had been Proton’s chairman and adviser.
“He appeared to be very happy even though before this, he criticised me and said he would no longer be proud of the Proton brand after Geely was made a partner,” he said, adding that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government also seemed to be proud of the Proton-Geely partnership.