Saturday, April 14, 2007

Proton - old cars, old story

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.


Sovind said...

IMHO it's the problem of vested interests.

VW have stated they need to have control of the supply chain or else its no deal. Made by VW is very important.

We can't (don't) want to give them that control as it would mean a lot of suppliers that shoudn't have been there in the first place would close down.

We wanted an auto industry but it turn out that we're having to suport the industry.

Irrespective of who takes over the Proton, the protection has to go immediately. If its the two tycoons, there should not be any grace period. If the're not up to it - too bad.

Frankly we dont need the auto industry as it is too much of a burden on the country. Cars have become a luxury item here as opposed to a piece of utility. Because of that it takes up too much resources.

Anonymous said...

Salam Dato’
My two sen worth.
Twice if not more, the Prime Minister said he was willing and waiting for a date to meet Volkswagen chairman. Since then, the waiting continues.
I don’t know how others are looking at this but to me, after sounding out a couple of times that I want to meet and still no meeting, if this is not a snub, I don’t know what is.
Let’s forget about a foreign partner. If it’s technology we want from the foreign partner, couldn’t we just buy it instead of selling a portion of the company for it?
My personal take on this is that the problems in Proton have been wrongly diagnosed.
What does seven quarters of consecutive losses tell us?
That it’s not a manufacturing problem (hence, the search of technology, I assume), but that of marketing.
The cars are simply not selling. I'm not even sure if the current management is looking into this or even taking this seriously.
If what you say is true about a new man with an automotive background at the helm of the company, there’s still hope yet for Proton.
It is still a good company. It’s just that it had not been managed properly.

A Ferrari Fan

syed syahrul zarizi b syed abdullah said...

Don't forget, we have Lotus, but under utilize. We didn't even bother to use it technology now. wasted

We have Agusta, all major brands in bike's industry. We sold it to 1 ringgit company. wasted

All about mentality, priority. I pitty the small people like Dino & Alex.

I mean, the rakyat. like us.

Alliedmartster said...

Which reminds me, An Ancient Mariner once told me that he and a group of people in the marine business decided to group together to give one of Port Klang's jetty a new look and makeover in order to increase it's profile. On submission of the paper, the council decided that they were going to do it themselves. That was some 20 years ago, and now? Still the same.
If only the council acted in good faith!

Anonymous said...

It is time to ditch this rubbish Proton is putting on the road. The cars are outdated and so is the technology. The name is even worse. It has no pulling power overseas. Time to ditch the 'national pride' (Proton is not a Malay name anyway)and buy a brand from GM (it has some 150 names it is not using)that has some residual goodwill and recognition. Do that and put in a carmaker (not another Dato)who know what to do and you might just get this thing going again. But that has snowball's chance in hell of happening in this wonderful country!

mananbuyong said...

Waduuuhh! I am very worried.

You see, my kampong is the nearest to the PROTON plant in Tanjung Malim. For many years we have been looking forward to a development that will benefit us... in a big way.

But reading what you are saying here, spoils my day.

Before PROTON, we have all the hills and the foothills of the mighty Titiwangsa to us. Our people hunt there for food, we cut bamboo and rattan to be sold, we fish in the rivers..

Now, with the so called development, we are deprived of our way of life, so to speak.

Of course, there are benefits. But we are not very happy yet. Now these perspectives... really saddened me.