Think-tank asks for support for Proton partnership

Ideas external relations manager Azrul Khalib

Ideas external relations manager Azrul Khalib

Written by TheMole

PETALING JAYA — February 16, 2017: The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) wants everyone to stop blaming the past leadership of Proton Holdings and instead support efforts aimed at positive changes.

In this regards, the think-tank’s external relations manager, Azrul Khalib,  said getting Proton a foreign strategic partner (FSP) is more important than finding faults which had previously bogged down the performance of the national car-maker.

“It is no use blaming past leadership again and again without making the necessary changes which will enable it to remain relevant and turn a profit,” said Azrul to Free Malaysia Today.

 “To get the results you want, changes must be made.”

Such changes would include bringing in fresh talents, letting go of existing deadwood, increasing efficiency and improving production quality.

Citing Chinese car-maker Geely Holdings as a possible partner which will acquire 51 per cent of Proton, Azrul said such an arrangement would likely be for the best for Proton to improve.

Azrul said Geely, which owns Swedish car-maker Volvo, could steer Proton in the right direction.

Under Geely, Volvo has reportedly been given a high degree of independence and even made its largest hiring exercise of engineers in recent times, contributing to the development of the new Volvo XC90, S90 and V90 models.

“Arguably, Proton is not yet at the level of Volvo, which is an iconic brand that goes way back, has a solid track record and has a global market,” he said.

“Geely might want to bring in new blood to revitalise Proton and be more involved in its operations to protect its investments.”

StarBiz recently reported that Geely was the frontrunner for a 51% stake in Proton. Over the years, there had been several plans for Proton to form a long-term partnership with a foreign car maker. Potential suitors included Volkswagen, Suzuki and Renault.

Yesterday, DRB-Hicom Berhad, which owns Proton, reiterated that it would conclude and announce a decision on a FSP within the first half of this year.

“The search is complex and thus, time-consuming,” it said in a statement.

“We urge the public not to be misled by reports related to the FSP search. DRB-Hicom will make the proper announcement once this process is completed,” it added.

Azrul, however, warned that the possible tie-up with Geely may likely require the government and Proton to deal with retrenchment caused by the changes which come with such  partnership.

“The government and Proton must be prepared for this and provide a job transition programme to ensure that workers are able to re-skill or train for another role to take advantage of other employment opportunities or careers,” he said.

Azrul pointed out that some automotive companies which were forced to downsize in the past, such as Ford, Volvo and General Motors, had retraining programmes for their employees so they could take on new jobs or choose new career paths.

“The main purpose of these programmes is to assist soon-to-be former workers get employment elsewhere instead of being thrown out into the job market,” he said.

“It is common practice and Proton should do the same.”

Similar concerns were recently raised by economist Jorah Ramlan, who recently spoke of the impact of the potential acquisition on the jobs of more than 60,000 people. Figures from last year showed that about 12,000 people were employed by Proton and 50,000 by its vendors.



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