Proton accused of cultural insensitivity


An economist says the offer of discounts to Hokkiens shows that the company's new owners don't understand Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: Economist Hoo Ke Ping has accused Proton’s China-based partner of cultural insensitivity with its recent offer of discounts to Malaysian Chinese.

Speaking to FMT, he said Chinese automaker Zheijiang Geely, which acquired 49.99% of Proton from DRB-Hicom last year, had shown that it lacked understanding of Malaysia’s multicultural landscape.

Last Friday, Proton’s new CEO, Li Chunrong, announced discounts of up to 10% to members of Chinese guilds that come under the Malaysian Federation of Hokkien Associations. He was quoted as saying that any Malaysian of Fujian origin would get to enjoy Proton’s most preferential prices ever.

Hoo said such an offer had the potential to worsen racial division in Malaysia.

“Proton is being very insensitive,” he said. “It doesn’t understand Malaysia. This will result in other races boycotting Proton.”

He said the offer was as “idiotic” as Proton’s reported decision to make major changes to its dealership and service centre systems. According to a recent report in the Malaysian Reserve, the changes would include mergers of dealerships and service centres and could result in the closure of some of the establishments.

According to Hoo, when Proton was formed in the mid-1980s, dealerships were sold or distributed on the basis of a “crony vendor system”.

“Back then, those who were interested to operate a sale dealership or service workshop would have to apply for a special licence and pay a certain kind of patronage fee to these cronies to get a licence,” he said.

“Twenty years later, Proton created a network of sale dealerships that were not equipped with service workshops.

“The existing service workshops made money through servicing Proton cars that were under warranty, but were unable to repair Proton cars.”

Hoo said it was obvious that Geely didn’t understand how things work in Malaysia. “Li’s statement about plans to overhaul these service workshops shows he obviously didn’t study Proton closely enough.”

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