Govt to set new car policy to protect against ‘Milo tin’ imports, PM says

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 30, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 30, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir told Parliament today that his Pakatan Harapan government will be reviewing the policy on car imports to protect local production when it rolls out the next national car project.

He said the policies by the former Barisan Nasional (BN) administration in the past 10 years had allowed too many imports of international cars, including those of dubious quality, that had stunted the growth of the country’s automobile market.

“There are a number of factors that had made it difficult for Proton to penetrate the foreign market, which includes strict terms, conditions and policies that have been set by other developed countries,” he said, citing high taxes and the Euro emissions standards, which limit the carbon monoxide emissions of new passenger cars, as examples.

“However, while we are restricted to enter the foreign market, we have allowed so many different cars to enter our market, even cars made out of Milo tin,” he said during Question Time in response to Ayer Hitam MP Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong who asked about the government’s third national car project.

Dr Mahathir has been instrumental in the creation of Proton, the country’s first national car during his first 22 years as prime minister that ended when he resigned in 2003.

Last month, he mooted a third national car project, after 49.9 per cent shares in Proton was bought up by Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holdings Group last year.

Dr Mahathir said today that the automotive industry is important for the country’s growth, adding that a new national car project would boost Malaysia’s engineering capabilities.

He touted Proton as a successful car even in foreign markets, but blamed the previous Barisan Nasional administration after his time for its decline, by imposing policies that did not favour locally-made cars, including stopping funding for its research and development.

“For a long time, Proton had asked for assistance from the former government, but nothing was given. Over RM1 billion was promised for research, but it was never fulfilled. Only when it was sold to another country, then funds were given.

“The former policies had prioritised imported cars over local product. The new government will impose new policies we hope those from the Opposition will see this,” Dr Mahathir said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

He added that if Proton was not forced to “self-fund” and had continued to receive government financial aid, the country’s first car would have been able to achieve greater success after his time.