Why we should say ‘no’ to a third national car

We now have a new government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) as the voters decided to remove the Barisan Nasional (BN) government after 61 years of rule. Many had placed their trust in Dr Mahathir Mohamad to bring about reforms in the country. But to their dismay, some of his ideas show that he intends to move back to the old ways. One of these is the idea for a third national car.

The first national car, Proton, has survived for over 30 years. But unfortunately, it bled billions of ringgit from the treasury.

Many Malaysians have heard “The Tale of Two Brothers”. The older brother was pampered and, at the end of the day, kept relying on his father. The younger brother, who was not given anything, put in his own efforts and emerged a successful man.

These two brothers are like Proton and Perodua. Proton has no will to improve its image and quality. Its models have remained the same for many years. When new models come out, they are like copy-and-paste versions of earlier ones. Where is the innovation?

A generation of Malaysians have been forced to buy a protected national car which is not worth its price. Unqualified people were placed in top positions. When the government wanted to build a car industry, there was no political will to develop a good infrastructure for public transportation. The LRT and MRT were, in fact, 30 years too late. When more cars piled up on the roads, it became a nightmare for the people. Urban people who have to drive don’t live a good quality life. Every day, they waste many hours on the road. This has also hindered the country’s productivity.

Because public transportation is poor, the people are forced to buy cars. Mind you, driving a car in Malaysia will cost you toll. Let’s say a person earns RM3,000 a month. For him to buy a modest car that costs RM40,000, he would probably need to service a five-year loan.

I pity the young people who are fresh in the job market. Many have to service even nine-year loans on their cars. For an American, a modest car would cost US$8,000. If a person earns US$3,000 a month, he could probably settle the loan within a year.

So I urge Mahathir, please spare us further agony. It would take many years to build a heavy industry. We don’t need engineering prowess to make it as a developed nation. Singapore has no heavy industry but it is considered a first-world country today.

Besides, to regulate the import of cars is against the global policy of promoting free trade. Don’t repeat “The Tale of Two Brothers”. The word “protectionism” should not be in PH’s vocabulary as it seeks to reform the country. Auto technology has already gone too far; it is too late for us to come up with a car that will impact the global market.

I hope that Mahathir will bring in experts to develop public transportation instead. City folk are suffering from a sleep deficit. They have to get up very early in order to beat the traffic. After finishing their work, they have to crawl home in long queues again. Not only is productivity hindered, family life is affected as well.

Allen Tan is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.