Why have these `national car' projects continue when they don't directly benefit us? Why should Malaysians continue to `pikul biawak'' on our backs?
You can't blame Tun Dr Mahathir for having a big dream. However, after all these years given to the national car project, it's time to either change direction or to move to a new level. Only time will tell whether Khazanah's sale of Proton to DRB-Hicom is the best option, and that something has to be done about Proton, which is going nowhere.
But will selling off Lotus be a good move?
AFP reports that DRB-Hicom is considering "spinning off the company's money-losing Britain-based sports car unit Group Lotus." It said China's Shanghai Auto, which owns MG Rover, is interested.
It does look like a good option, selling off this non-profitable unit owned by Proton. After all, what good is it to have a marque name which doesn't bring you anything - unless if prestige is all that you are looking for.
If you'd look at Lotus' website here, and the cars that sell: they look really nice but how many people are willing - or can afford - to buy them?
Lotus EvoraYes, there are many people in the world who can afford to buy these Lotus sports cars. However, it is clear that not too many of them are, which is why DRB-Hicom might simply just get rid of it.
By the way, some people might question what experience I have about the automobiles business? Well, I had driven cars since 1982, and that's a lot longer than Henry Ford's own experience when he first started his company:-P
In my opinion, the Lotus name is the most valuable asset if DRB-Hicom/Proton really want to enter the international market. The harsh reality is this: people elsewhere aren't likely to be attracted to buy Proton and Perodua cars. Why? The same reasons that we won't buy Skoda and Chery.
But Lotus cars - Ah, this sounds a lot more attractive than Proton, Perodua, Skoda and Chery combined... and especially when they are less than RM200,000.
"But how can you sell Lotus cars at less than that?!" you might ask. Yes, you can - but they will have to be bread-and-butter cars, not the current sports cars... which no one buys.
This is the Mercedes C200, and it's more than RM200,000. But imagine the Merc star on the grille being replaced by the Lotus logo, and selling for around RM150,000 or a bit less: wouldn't you at least be attracted to consider buying it? This, I feel, is the type of cars that Lotus - through DRB-Hicom/Proton - should be making if they want to enter the international market.
The 2,ooo-3,000 c.c. market, with the Lotus name: this could be the ticket to the international market. Yes, there are so many other manufacturers here, and established ones too. However, when it is a LOTUS, which not only looks attractive but also comes at an attractive price, there is a lot more hope of success than if the same model is called "Proton" or "Perodua".