Proton's End? (Malaysia's Failed Auto Nat'l Champion)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/22/2017 05:51:00 PM
It's time to let Proton go, Mahathir Mohamad.
Proton is the archetypal "infant industry" that never grew up. The pet project of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Proton was intended to be a national champion automaker able to duke it out with foreign competition. The problem is, even behind various protections and subsidies, Proton has never really made the cut. Bouncing around from state to private ownership, one thing has been consistent: it has lots of money over the decades.

It now appears that the end of the road nears for Proton as France's Peugeot Citroen and China's Geely are investigating buying the remaining assets of Proton. The most valuable part of it is the sports car legend Lotus:
France’s PSA Group and China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. have submitted bids to buy a stake in money-losing Malaysian automaker Proton Holdings Bhd., according to people with knowledge of the matter. Negotiations are still preliminary, with bids being evaluated and clarified, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

The exact size of the stake to be sold in Proton, which also owns British sports car maker Lotus Cars Ltd., will be determined after discussions, the person said. A PSA spokesman said the company is “still in the negotiation process and wish to go further with Proton.” A representative for Geely declined to comment. A Proton spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Proton, which is controlled by Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s DRB-Hicom Bhd., is struggling from accumulated debts as sales slump. DRB-Hicom said in a Feb. 15 statement that it will conclude and announce its decision on the foreign strategic partner within the first half of this year.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Mahathir's prescription is not to sell Proton but to impose more protections, as a blogger points out:
Lim said Mahathir had attacked Proton’s plan to bring in a joint-venture partner as this would cause [Malaysian] vendors and suppliers of components to close shop, resulting in “lots of workers losing their jobs”. Lim said, “It appears that the suppliers and vendors to Proton continue to be Mahathir’s main concern. In a previous post in October, Mahathir had complained that his businessmen friends were not given supplier contracts by Proton.

“Does Mahathir continue to insist that the welfare of his supplier friends who have gotten rich over the decades from Proton are more important than the survival of Proton?” He added, “Mahathir insists that Malaysia re-impose heavy protection to Proton. It appears that more than three decades of forcing Malaysia to purchase over-priced and low specifications cars while driving up the loan burden of millions of Malaysians is not enough.”
All I can say is that if Proton hasn't managed to make it to break even after all this time, then there is little point in keeping it afloat through more artificial life support.

Let Proton go gently into the night.