AN OLD friend working for Proton poured his heart out a few days ago. Dino brought along a salesman, Alex, and both spoke emotionally about their predicament. Dino is looking for a new job while Alex continues to struggle, selling the odd car here and there.
Dino has seen the best of times in Proton, and now he's staring at the possibility of unemployment. He said morale among his colleagues are low, and many have moved on joining other companies. From the newspapers, Dino and Alex wonder whether Proton will ever get the foreign partner that everyone is talking about.
They are also wondering whether the Government would sell a stake to Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary or Tan Sri Nasimuddin SM Amin. Both are very successful entrepreneurs with track records of their own.
Dino and Alex are nowhere near the decision-making hierachy of Proton, or Khazanah, the owners. But Dino hears things. Disturbing things. He told me that the Proton Chairman, Dato Azlan Hashim, and the Managing Director, Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin, can't seem to agree which route Proton should take to get itself out of the rut.
There was talk that a new chairman was to be appointed, a well known personality from the automotive industry. This has been speculated for the last few months but there has been no news whatsover since then. The personality is aware that his name is linked to the post but that's about all for now.
Alex the salesman finds the going very tough. Proton cars no longer excite the market. Buyers are increasingly discerning, and they have choices. The Wajas, the Gen 2 or the Savvy are good cars, but they are dated.
"People want new models lah. Proton can still make the Waja or Gen 2, no problem. But where are the new models? You see so many new cars on the road, but Proton cars are all old cars. I am a salesman, a good salesman. I know what I am saying," Alex was fuming.
You can't really blame Alex because it's people like him that has helped Proton record high sales in years gone by. Dino is a trained engineer. He feels that his learning curve is on a plateau, which is sad. Having had the foundation, Dino feels that he should be learning new stuff. But that's not happening.
Dino has come to the conclusion that the powers-that-be doesn't really care what's happening to Proton, or what's happening in Proton. "This is a simple case of - it's not my baby. Kalau kita semua sayang Proton, sudah tentu satu keputusan baik sudah dibuat (If we really love Proton, a decision would have been made already)."
For the sake of the thousands of people whose livelihood depends directly or indirectly on Proton, I hope a proper decision can be made ASAP. The people running Khazanah should make a quick decision - bring foreign partner, or sell to one of the two local tycoons.
Whether it's Volkswagon or Tan Sri Mokhtar or Tan Sri Nasimuddin - they know what to do with Proton! When they put their hard-earned money in it - they know exactly how to get their investments back. Proton doesn't just need a new coat of paint - it also needs a full overhaul.