KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Proton Holdings said today it will not accept Bitcoin as payment for its cars, after a dealer made waves by offering to accept the virtual currency that has taken the financial world by storm.
Despite the company’s position, however, the dealer from Seri Kembangan said he does not plan to withdraw his offer to accept the cryptocurrency as a form of payment at his outlet.
He claimed he had to resort to such tactics in a bid to drive flagging sales at his dealership.
“I am just trying this approach to go by this difficult period and true enough since last Thursday I have been receiving more inquiries about purchasing cars through Bitcoin,” the owner of Anjur Kayangan Auto Sdn Bhd, who only wanted to be known as Tony, told Malay Mail.
“After advertising about the Bitcoin service, we have been getting at least 10 to 20 walk-in customers asking about the service,” he added.
After putting up the banner on Bitcoin service on Thursday, Tony said Proton told him to take it down the next day, but claimed no further information was given by the national car manufacturer aside from that order.
“I have taken down the banner, but I am still offering the service as you can see that I am advertising Bitcoin as a payment method on the doors to my outlet,” Tony said.
Unlike normal currencies, the value of one unit of Bitcoin — 1 BTC — has no intrinsic value, since it is not backed by any physical assets, or guaranteed by a sovereign government or central bank.
Instead, its value depends solely on its acceptance as a currency, and the public’s confidence in Bitcoin.
Despite this, Bitcoin has surged in both popularity and value in recent times, reaching nearly US$20,000 (RM79,950) at the end of 2017. In 2013, it was worth just US$23.
The currency’s extreme volatility led Bank Negara Malaysia to announce in January 2014 that it was not legal tender in the country.
According to Tony, buyers who wish to purchase cars through Bitcoin at his outlet could do so by transferring the amount for a downpayment or even the total price of a desired car model to his personal Bitcoin wallet.
However, he said Bitcoin buyers will be charged an extra two per cent of the invoiced amount as a buffer for volatility.
Besides offering the cryptocurrecy service, Tony said his other payment methods were just like at any other car dealers.
“I am just trying this approach because Proton cars are doing badly in the market. There also talks by Proton Holdings to close down underperforming dealers so this (offering Bitcoin) is my last step before I close shop,” he said.
According to him, sales for Proton cars at his outlet and at several other outlets were now under 10 transactions a month compared to about 100 monthly sales prior the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) in 2014.
In a statement issued today, Proton said it did not recognise the Bitcoin payment method and was suspending the operations of the “dealer” (Tony) pending further investigation.
Proton said that while it encourages innovative ways to increase sales, promotional activities must adhere to its guidelines and be endorsed by the major shareholder of the car manufacturer.
In an accompanying statement, Proton said it recorded 70,991 in sales last year compared to 72,291 units sold in 2016.
It attributed this to lower demand from the taxi industry.
“In order for us to pick up our sales numbers, we shall be taking further steps for more attractive consumer campaigns, and improvement of product and service quality,” Proton vice president of sales and marketing Abdul Rashid Musa said.