Wednesday, January 31, 2007

USFTA Malaysia = Malayan Union Abad Ke-21?

Saya baru sahaja menyumbang kepada bahan 'pantauan' tersebut di site

Suatu cabaran yang diterima oleh Gabungan Rakyat Pemantau USFTA-Malaysia dari para pemimpin pelajar Malaysia di UK adalah untuk menjelaskan kenapakah USFTA atau Perjanjian Perdagangan Bebas dengan US ini dikatakan seakan-akan ancaman Malayan Union yang ditentang oleh nenek-moyang kita dahulu.

Izinkan kami menjelaskan sedikit hujah di sebalik pendapat ini. Pada zaman kemenangan sistem kapitalis Barat ini, sistem kapitalis ini sendiri menjadi senjata utama dalam usaha membelenggu negara-bangsa lain di dunia. Amalan ini mungkin tidak didukung oleh semua negara Barat, tetapi Amerika Syarikat, sebagai kuasa besar utama di dunia sekarang dari segi ketenteraan, mahupun saiz ekonominya, tetap mengamalkan penjajahan kapitalisma, atau Colonial Capitalism.

Bacalah lagi di ...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blogging Is Global In Nature, Hence Is Its Litigation Global In Nature?

They say a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, so as I have no real formal knowledge of the law, any views I espouse probably would be ...

It's getting to be a little too much fun taking Tangents of the NST vs. Blogger (Jeff and Rocky) civil action. My earlier post pondered the risks of Pak Lah being partisan on this case. I now wonder if maybe Uncle Kali and co may have begun something that isn't quite within the realm of their 'control'.

Consider this. Blogging is global by nature. The audience is global, as witnessed by the global outpouring of support in addition to the international reporting of this case, cited even as a 'landmark' case by the over-exuberant. However, there are legalistically global implications also to the suing of Rocky and Jeff, in that:
  1. Their blogs, whilst by and large Malaysian by content, are hosted in servers abroad, potentially making them 'resident' within a foreign legal jurisdiction.
  2. Any income they derive from the blogs, either directly through advertising, or indirectly by incidentals, opportunities, etc, would also not only be from Malaysian sources, but from an international base and would typically be via off-shore facilitation (adsense, etc).
  3. The reputation held by these blogs are also international in nature, evident from the global awareness and commentary of the case, hence the owners risk critical cross-border defamation and all that that entails, whatever the outcome of this case.

So, is it too far a Tangent to imagine that whatever the outcome of this battle in the Malaysian courts, Jeff and Rocky may be able to seek legal recourse of some sort from a foreign court of law, almost of their choice?

So, could Jeff and Rocky even from now on lay a counter-claim of libel, defamation and loss of income through restriction in blogging activity in a US court due to their blogs being hosted and the income from advertising being facilitated by US entities?

And lets assume say a link is made between the case and happenings in Turkey, just an example mind you, could they take action in a Turkish court specific to the element of the case being cited?

Wow... this is great kung fu for us wee bloggers if it proves to be true...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Can Pak Lah Afford To Be Partisan Against Us Wee Bloggers?

I'm taking a Tangent here of course on the matter of the bloggers (Jeff and Rocky) vs NSTP case which is running rabid on the Malaysian blogosphere and apparently infecting much of the world's on-line and traditional media.

The Tangent I'm taking is actually on this:

Am I reading this right? Is Pak Lah really taking sides here, against Jeff and Rocky, in what is really a civil suit? I mean I know-lah that NST is an UMNO paper and that Kalimullah is Pak Lah's chum (due to Pak Lah mistakenly thinking that Kalimullah helped him secure the DPM-ship - uncle Kali you sly old manipulator you...) as well as his son-in-law Khairy's boss and once(?) business partner, but isn't this going a little too far?

It would be far fairer of Pak Lah if he also added a comment in the lines of,"Traditional media also should take responsibility of their reporting, and responsible blogs then do have a role to play to check the excesses of such media, especially those with links to the establishment like the NST. Indeed traditional media like NSTP's publications that are linked to the ruling party must set the standard in responsible reporting ahead of blogs as any poor reporting risks embarassing the government."

The above line is not just more creditable for a leader gagging for world recognition (since local recognition is tough in the days of floods, boats, inflation and toll hikes), it is also good politics as:
  1. Bloggers are voters too

  2. Uncle Kali and gang are not really the most popular people in Malaysia at the moment

  3. In Acheh recently, the winner of the race for Govenor was a surprise dark-horse ex-rebel/freedom fighter ex-con. The reason he and his block of the Acheh Liberation Movement (GAM) won? They printed out and distrubuted the 'best off' news about their block that was published in the net and blogs!

By the way, there may also be legal reasons why Pak Lah should refrain from commenting on this matter as the recent thorn in Dato' Rafidah's side, Michael Backman ( once commented in his book...

...that (in his view) Malaysian courts are actually quite independent (contrary to popular opinion), but have this annoying habit of typically passing judgement in favour of or in line with what they percieve are the government's desires; the flip-flop on Anwar Ibrahim's conviction and subsequent release on appeal being the case in point.

Could Pak Lah be setting up grounds for an appeal for this case should the NST-fellows win? Pak Lah... I thought uncle Kali was your friend?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lets Not End Up Riding In This Boat...

Our former DPM, Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim, (otherwise known as the 'KJ Idol' or the 'politician otherwise known as DSAI' on the net), admist his blatant attacks on the man he sees as his biggest obstacle to returning to UMNO, and power, the current DPM, has chosen to raise the anchor of another boat's issue to lend him 'credibility' by:

  1. Giving the impression that Leaders of Muslim countries still have the time of day to spend with him. (
  2. Giving the impression that he's also anti Pak Lah... which actually may well be true, which would be really tricky of him! Ahah!

Well seeing DSAI's antics and with myself getting a little sick of the new ridiculous act of 'management' in Proton, akin to gorging on a sour Cherry in the hope of patching up large tracks of missing 'grey cells' involvement in past decisions, I thought I'd take a Tangent even from my last take on 'the boat': (

I say we Malaysian should all stay focussed to avoid us ending up in a boat like this:

This is "The Raft Of The Medusa" by Theodore Gericault, by far my favourite of all the pieces of art on display at the Louvre in Paris.

Note that it does qualify as a 'boat' as it appears somewhat seaworthy enough to carry some people, though just barely.

It is of course nothing like the supposed "Yatch of Pak Lah" or the RM30 Million boat.

My attraction to this painting isn't just due to its apparent morbidity (which is kinda cool), the artists' wonderful use of colour and technique (which, being an engineering graduate, I don't really think I have the tools to comprehend) or because I could admire it in peace whilst every other tourist were scrambling over each other to glance a snapshot of the Mona Lisa (my wife's more of a babe anyway).

What attracted me also was the history underlying the painting, as it was actually a record of the last hours before the rescue of an incident involving the French vessel Medusa in the 1800's. Here's a Wiki:

The history behind The Raft Of The Medusa is actually that of management incompetence. The incompetence of the French Bourbon government in appointing the frigate Medusa's Captain. The Captain's inexperience and incompetence leading to the ship being grounded. Then the rather pathetic efforts to save the survivors of the wreck, leading to a disaster and scandal which deservedly rocked the French government of the time.

Read excerpts from wikipedia (with edits for clarity of my message):

"The French Ministry of the Marine made the mistake of appointing inexperienced Frigate-Captain ... to lead the fleet. He had mainly worked as a customs officer more than twenty years previously and had worked against Napoleon. His crew did not particularly appreciate him, because they had served with Napoleon during his reign...

The fleet left Port de Rochefort on June 17. Medusa sailed quickly away before the rest of the fleet. On July 17, the Captain... ran the ship aground.

At first the crew tried to release her by throwing heavy items overboard, but (the Captain) stopped the effort....

Eventually he decided to abandon ship. Because there were only six
lifeboats, he made a raft out of masts and crossbeams to carry the rest of the crew. Dignitaries – 250 of them – took the lifeboats and attempted to tow the raft. The raft was too flimsy to keep all the rest (149 men and one woman) afloat. Seventeen men decided to stay on Medusa. The rest were left with no food and water to speak of.

Those in lifeboats soon noticed that the idea of towing the raft was impractical. (The Captain) decided to cut the rope and leave the rest of the crew to its fate, four miles (6 km) off shore.

On the raft, the situation deteriorated rapidly. Men began to throw wine and flour out of spite and fight among themselves. On the first night 20 men – whites and
Africans, soldiers and officers – were killed or committed suicide. Rations dwindled ever more rapidly and on the fourth day some on the raft resorted to cannibalism. On the eighth day, the fittest began throwing the weak and wounded overboard.

Thirteen days later, when (the ship) Argus found the raft almost by accident, there were only 15 survivors remaining. Five of the survivors, including the last African crew member, died within days. Three of the seventeen men that had decided to stay on the Medusa were later recovered alive. British naval officers helped the survivors to return to France because aid from the French Minister of the Marine was not forthcoming."

A 'nice' metaphor and cautionary tale for our times in Malaysia no? What with the out of control increases in cost of living, the selling off of national assets, the instigation of racial tension and with the USFTA coming up to boot! Interpret the history behind The Raft Of The Medusa in the current Malaysian context as you wish... lets just not end up in THIS kind of boat...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Proton Saga: An Ongoing Example Of Analysis Gone Bad - Part 2, The "Insider"

I was innocently sharing my last write-up on Proton on the promuda circle ( when I was challenged by a chap claiming to be an 'Insider' of the workings of Proton under Mahaleel through to today. I'm grateful of the challenge really as it allowed me to then clarify some typical armchair-critic analysis which have long bugged me.

I actually first clarified that I had never worked in Proton. In fact, I've never worked for a car company. Nevertheless, the irony is that I am at least as qualified as the majority of "experts" commenting on the car industry today, with the advantage that I've been working in an integrated industry (oil) for more than 9 years now, covering production, R&D and now economic optimisation and tactical planning.

So, when I comment, it may not be as an 'insider' or expert as some claim to be, but I'd like to think it is based on more than just "pure assumptions, both fact and fiction".

I'll present my response almost verbatim, so I hope you'll be able to read the questions in the original challenge clearly.

The Insider wondered w.r.t. my insinuation that VW was less interested in being partners with Proton after the 'mega-insider' Azlan Hashim sold MV Agusta for a dollar,"They (VW) are focussed in what they do, i.e. a car manufacturer, so why would want to go into the motorcycle business?"

Response: Mr Insider. As an 'insider', you should know that there is a lot of cross-polination between all vehicular industries. Yamaha for instance was and continues to be a partner to Toyota in many technical developments, including the Toyota's vaunted Twin-Cam technology. BMW also owns a Motorbike unit, with the unique 'duck' engine design. Saab's original parent make aircraft, and Renault used to make tanks!

Presence of a high-tech motorbike arm as part of an auto company's design pool adds to the overall breadth and depth of a company's design make-up. As such, MV Agusta is not just of value for its brands, but also for its own set of and capacity to further develop Intellectual Property (IP), including a very well reputed design studio, CRC.

How is this transferable to cars? Lets try just one example. Headlights. As an insider, you'd know the sort of IP that goes into headlight design. The fusion of beautiful aesthetics with safe, effective light distribution, power efficiency and all in a compact package? Well,headlights are just one of the 'simpler' items MV Agusta's design and tech could bring to a car company like Proton.

The full list is long...Similar to say how Yamaha pianos contributed to the Lexus' woodfinish... no item and contribution is too small to be discounted.

The real technology jewel for Proton I had always felt though was the potential of MV Agusta's engine tech - small engines with power outputs that could drive a small car... like the Savvy! I understand Lotus doesn't have this technology, hence I had always believed access to this tech could be achieved from MV Agusta. Again, the Toyota-Yamaha relationship comes to mind.

You would know of course that some Korean cars have their bodyworkdesigns done in Italy? Proton used to OWN its own Italian design house through MV Agusta(!), something the present Proton management didn't understand.

When the current Proton management demonstrated this lack of understanding by selling MV Agusta on the cheap (to a company that seems to have been able to continue to keep MV Agusta floating!), VW execs probably realised they were negotiating with incompetents...and pulled out...helped along the way by another offer on the table...

The Insider actually also said prior to that that,"VW's technological capabilities are way more advanced than many other OEM's."

Response: True. But no car company I know has dominance in auto technology. The field is just too diverse. So an assumption that Proton, humble little Proton, of course with Lotus in its stable, had nothing to offer VW is arrogant in the extreme. Of course, Proton had more to offer when it owned MV Agusta... Lets continue...

On my questioning why Wira production was not stopped, the Insider said,"Although I agree with you that they should have stopped the production of Wira, but this issue was there even before Mahaleelleft. So I don't think this point of yours of blaming the currentmanagement for this is valid."

Response: I disagree with you, as Mahaleel publicly announced that Wira's production was to cease when the Gen2 production was to normalise and ramp up beyond the initial roll-out, hence Mahaleel was always planning to kill the Wira, ergo, the current management are fully responsible for keeping the Wira alive past its life-cycle!

In addition, I find the idea of scapegoating Mahaleel repugnant and irrelevant. The guy is gone. Excusing any incompetency of the current management on him, rightly and wrongly, is hence morally repugnant when the current management could and should take responsibility in the now!

The Insider also said on the Wira,"...Perodua are successfully doing what you(and me!) say shouldn't be done (killing Wira). They are still producing Kancils and Kelisas, two cars in the same segment, yetmaking a hefty profit from it..."

Response: I disagree. I think Kancil is and has always been a cheapo car.Kelisa is actually quite a bit better than Kancil.

The difference is not too subtle, like say between an Iswara and Gen2. These two cars both are also in about the same class in size and have close weight to power ratios, but they're for different markets.

The Insider said,"Again, poor quality vendor issue originated even during Mahaleel's era. He was the head honcho for about 8 years if I'm not mistaken, and it was during this time that it all went wrong. The new management took over about a year or so ago."

Response: As I said, I find excuses like this morally repugnant and excuses that 'the new guys need more time' smacks of the Lah-ism desease of procrastination. This is not the way to run a business.

I make no excuses for Mahaleel, and agreed, he could have tackled thequality problems sooner. However, I find it interesting that the government, Khazanah and Proton's board agreed he had to go at about the same time he began to negotiate and action the ranking of vendors, with the intention of dismissing poor quality vendors (many probably linked to the establishment) and replacing them even with foreign parts providers if needed to drive the car quality issue forward.

So, on the on-going poor Proton quality due to poor vendor quality, who's really to blame? Proton's current management holds the bag, though I suspect with Khazanah and the government sharing responsibility also for continuing to hamstring Proton.

The Insider suprisingly raised the standard song and dance questions why MVAgusta was bought. It was bought at a premium, it was making loses, it continued to make loses, yadayadayada...

Response: Well I believe I gave some good reasons above, and it is a reality in business that you buy above market price for control of a company, even unprofitable ones, as those may well still hold assets.

On MV Agusta continuing to make losses, this is where I can give you a lesson in one aspect of an integrated business. In major integrated business, there is such a concept as having aloss-leader. A loss-leader is there not to make money, but actually delivers value to the entire enterprise as a whole whilst it is making a loss. MV Agusta would have fit this role in Proton, given time, similar to say how Bugatti does for VW, or Xerox PARC does for Xerox in the imaging industry.

Interestingly, Lotus and MV Agusta was about to implement a branding and distribution cross-sharing plan which would have brought them closer to the black before MV Agusta was sold (the BBC reported this when the MV Agusta sale was announced).

Maybe the current Proton management wasn't interested? Maybe they didn't get it? Or maybe they just needed a scapegoat for incompetencies to that date?

The Insider said,"I personally know of and experienced an instance whereabout half a Billion ringgit was literally wiped out, due tounprofessional decission making by the previous management."

Sorry mate, but we're professionals. Please substantiate this,otherwise, even if you are an insider, this is hearsay.

Besides, didn't the SC declare once that losses of such a sizewas 'acceptable'? LOL

But seriously, even if this was true, management, even good ones,make mistakes all the time. Good management though on the balance make more good/excellent major decisions more times than poor/bad ones, with business growth an indicator of competency. Mahaleel consistently delivered growth. The current management doesn't seem to know the concept... we're lucky Proton's still in the black!

The Insider then said,"As far as I am aware of, the current management are really struggling to 'stablise the ship' due to the really low cashreserve of Proton."

Response: Sorry, but this is bull. Proton Group recorded a CASH balance of~RM1.6BILLION in 31 March 2006's and ~RM2.4BILLION in the year before's yearly audited accounts. If it no longer has this money (and the drop between the 2 end of years followed departure of Mahaleel in July 2006), the current management certainly can't blame the previous guy!

How can an 'insider' not know what is public knowledge? Here is the link to explore this public record:

Proton also self financed the Tanjung Malim plant and the Shah Alam plant is fully paid-up and is a real-estate goldmine that has neverbeen re-valued since the 80's! If Proton was cash strapped, any bank would take the Shah Alam plant as security for a few hundred million revolving credit. It would appear you have been made wrongly aware.

The Insider also excused Proton's current poor performance by saying the scenario for Proton now is worse than in the 1999 crisis, when Proton was still able to make a profit.

Response: Hello, competent management is able to make money or make the most of even poor situations. We have car companies in Brazil, with double digit inflation for decades on end, making money for god sakes! If the current Proton management can't handle the current business environment, its not the fault of the environment, they just don't have the competency to handle it!

The Insider commented,"I don't know how much Proton was involved in the NAP,but I would think it would be quite a small input due to the lesserfavourability to Proton compared to the pre-NAP era."

Response: I don't really understand your comment. How can Malaysia's largest car producer not be engaged in developing the NAP? It doesn't make sense.

So, you say even after Mahaleel was dismissed, the new management, supposedly backed by Khazanah, was not 'favoured' to give input to the NAP, commissioned by the government that make up the board of Khazanah? No, this doesn't make sense.

As I said, Proton's management, if not engaged, then were weak by not forcing engagement, and if it was engaged, were idiots if the NAP as it stands was the result!

On my claim that the stretch Waja was a debacle falling squarely on the shoulders of Proton Chairman Dato' Azlan Hashim, the Insider said,"...if you are an insider, or even remotely connected to the automotive industry, you should know that to come up with a new car model (albeit by only modifying a previous model) takes quite a considerable amount of time. The conceptual design phase, by doing crash analysis, packaging, etc, then prototypetesting, mule cars and what have you, and then coming up with the final design and finding suppliers, creating tooling for themanfacturing process etc, there are many things that need to besorted out, and I'm not talking about days or weeks here. Were looking at a time frame of at least a year."

Response: As I admitted, I'm not an insider. Though I would like to correct you in that I recall the MIT Motor Vehicle Research Institute's study in the 80'son Japanese lean production actually figured that the Japanese could potentially build new designs through to production in 6 months...that was 2 decades ago, before multiple use of platforms became vogue and so refined.

Renault is planning to launch what, 20 models in 5years? Something like that.

I'm not an expert. However, I don't consider the stretch Waja a new car, or indeed even a challenge to design such as to take as long as you stipulate above. Most of the hard engineering was done with the original car. I'm not an insider here, but I would have thought all you needed to design a stretch of an existing car design was figure out how far you could stretch the car before the engineering failed - you know on the body, suspension stress, torque distribution along the axle, etc. I'm not an expert though ;-)...

The Insider then said,"Although I was never involved in the Waja stretch project, I would think that when Mahaleel left, the project was already on going, maybe nearing towards completion..."

Response: This scapegoating of Mahaleel (again) is tiring. As you say you weren't involved in the Waja stretch, so the question is open. However, Azlan took (misplaced) personal pride in unveiling it - if it was a bad choice to develop it, a competent manager would have killed it as the cost of marketing and plant re-config step etc could be saved.

And really, based on what I mentioned above about the stretch not being a new car, assuming you're an engineer (like I am - I don't make cars, but even designing Xylene splitters aren't trivial), you'd know that stretching the Waja doesn't take THAT much engineering work...

On the Insider's comment,"As an ex-insider to Proton, I would have to say that the best thing to happen to Proton was the departure of Mahaleel.Regarding the new management, it is never an overnight quick fix whenyou are already in deep shit."

Response: Again, I was never defending Mahaleel, but his performance vs the current management was just a useful counter-point.

I would have expected that the good Chairman Dato' Azlan Hashim knew how to be more competent when he chose Mahaleel to be dismissed, else, why dismiss him. Evidently, he is not, and in fact, is far worse!

I also disagree that Proton was all rot under Mahaleel, as ironically, it's the legacy he left behind that is keeping Proton afloat now! The Tanjung Malim plant, the stronger intergrated company from manufacturing to distribution to finance, the next generation cars (with Savvy being the current best-seller - timely for the times, but then as Mahaleel was an oil-man, he probably new about the coming oil crunch).

Towards the end, the Insider stated,"I would give them (Proton's current management) some time to try and use their best efforts to revive Proton. It's been about a year now, I'll probably wait another year before I start judging them"

Response: I refuse to give the current management another day, let alone another year! This statement of yours again smacks of Lah-ism! The current management is poor not just because it can't maintain Proton's profitability and growth as a business, but in fact because it has made matters worse!!!

How can you, a critic of Mahaleel,tolerate a management that is patently more incompetent than his! But then again I'm neither an expert nor an insider as you appear to be..

I would again like to thank the Insider and others who continue to miss-Analyse the Proton Saga for allowing me the opportunity to respond to their views... responding when I can as above is fun... and hopefully results in more materiel being put down for my book!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Permulaan Usaha Murni

Malaysia bakal tersungkur ke juram penguasaan asing, tetapi rakyatnya masih lena. Bangunlah rakyat Malaysia!

Menjelang pertengahan tahun 2007, kerajaan Malaysia bakal memetrai Perjanjian Perdagangan Bebas (Free Trade Agreement - FTA) dengan Amerika Syarikat(US). Perjanjian ini kini dan kelak juga pasti dikatakan berpotensi merealisasikan impian Wawasan 2020 oleh mereka yang menjaguhinya.

Namun rakyat Malaysia amnya, dan orang Melayu khususnya, mungkin kurang menyedari yang menjelang Malaysia menyambut 50 tahun Merdeka, perjanjian USFTA inilah sesuatu perjanjian yang bakal mengembalikan Malaysia ke belenggu penjajahan kuasa Barat, kali ini oleh Amerika Syarikat.

Kami sekumpulan profesional bertekad menyertai gerakan menentang USFTA, dengan menumpukan usaha terhadap mencelikan mata masyarakat majoriti Melayu Malaysia yang harus digembeling daya serta pengaruhnya bagi memastikan kejayaan pembentengan ini.

Usaha kami yang tidak seberapa ini kini bertumpu kepada pengumpulan maklumat kadalam blog kami, dengan niat mengumpul sumber berbahasa melayu atau mengalih-bahasakan yang berbahasa Inggeris kelak. Oleh itu, kami ingin menjemput mana-mana kumpulan atau individu untuk memberi sumbangan yang sesuai untuk disertakan ke dalam blog kami, dalam bahasa Melayu mahupun Inggeris sekalipun.

Adalah niat kami untuk kemudian mengagihkan maklumat ini dengan cara yang lebih sesuai kepada golongan yang lebih berpengaruh dengan harapan kedudukan rakyat Malaysia terpelihara dari belenggu USFTA yang sudah amnya terbukti durjana apabila dijangkiti oleh negara membangun lain sebelum ini.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Proton Saga: An Ongoing Example Of Analysis Gone Bad

I was reading an article (link below) in the Edge Financial Daily (effectively the Sun's business section) by Thomas Soon & Surin Murugiah entitled "Khazanah's Proton dilemma" and was attracted to the comment made that," local player could offer any real value to Proton, with or without any foreign strategic partner...", based on their polling of a small group of "automotive" analysts.

It would appear that these writers may have forgotten to sample a sufficiently large pool before penning a conclusion as, if I may myself analyse (being probably as qualified as those polled), there is one thing that the local players mentioned can bring that adds value to Proton, proper MANAGEMENT.

Proton currently doesn't have proper management, hence, even a profitable local Cokodok producing company can 'add value' to Proton. The Proof? Consider this...
  1. Malaysia has the largest Passenger Car market in South East Asia, with the no 2 and 3 largest markets being its neighbours Thailand and Indonesia respectively.
  2. Proton's home market is protected, pretty much guaranteeing a good margin for local car manufacturers, especially before the disaster that is the National Automotive Policy. And even with the disaster, other local manufacturers are making some money.
  3. Proton has cost superiority over all its competitors, having the largest and most modern production facility in ASEAN at Proton City, able to produce a car in less than 1 minute, 365/24/7! Its cost superiority is especially true for its newer models where own design IP is as high as 90% by some accounts.
  4. Globally and historically, all types of car companies have been shown to have the resilience to maintain control of at least 20% of its home market, whether they be Volvos, GMs, Tatas or indeed Protons, relying on strength of locality... unless they do something really stupid...

However, despite all these natural advantages, Proton is still not able to make a buck? Come on, something doesn't make sense here! When you consider the many errors committed by the current management of Proton, such as:

  1. Letting the original VW negotiations collapse (and not even wondering why this happened the day after they sold MV Agusta, when VW clearly wanted a hand on Proton's technology arm... which included MV Agusta...)
  2. Not stopping Wira production when the Gen-2, the Wira replacement model, rolled out. What, did they forget? Did they think that the Wira was such a great car - a car that even taxi drivers shunned in favor of the old warhorse Iswara?! This messed up their marketing, production, product portfolio balance, stocks management, what have you!
  3. Not addressing the poor quality vendor issue till now! We know la some of these vendors have political links, but come on la, where is your so called integrity Mr. Chairman of Proton? I thought you were going to usher in a new era of the defect free Proton?
  4. Record losses, the first conviniently hidden by the MV Agusta sale for a Euro, but many others not so convinient! Apa ni, masa krisis ekonomi dulu pun Proton untung! La masa Pak Lah kata ekonomi baguih Proton apa boleh rugi!
  5. Failing to drive the formulation of a National Automotive Policy that would really benefit the national car industry, when Proton is the standard bearer of the national car industry! And even if they did give input, then it was pretty shoddy input considering how bad the NAP turned out to be!
  6. And not to mention wierd distractions, like Dato' Azlan Hashim's first act of 'inspiration', unveiling that awful 'stretch' Waja... eeeuwww!

The situation at Proton these days are so deplorable that one wonders how the organisation even functions. It simply has no Management leadership to speak of. The competent people in its Management structure began their exodus following Tunku Mahaleel's dismissal, with the last competent and highly respected leader, then executive director of engineering and manufacturing, Dato Kisai Rahmat, resigning (many say in disgust) in July 2006.

The truth is that Proton has been suffering from a lack of and indeed deteriorating Management competence in the post-Mahaleel era, made worse by a Chairman who continues to undermine the efforts of senior execs. Everyone knows this. Even Khazanah VPs know this (though many won't openly admit it). This despite the fact that many of Khazanah's current VPs don't have real operational experience of managing a company, as the KPI's they worship are evidence of something undeniably wrong.

I said management incompetence began in the post-Mahaleel era. What, was Mahaleel so great?

No. Mahaleel isn't what I'd call "great". He isn't a Ghosn, an Iacocca or a Toyoda, but at least during his time Proton made money! Proton actually produced new models then and even had a 5-year vehicle program! In fact, the only new model unveiled by the current management, Satria Neo, was part of Mahaleel's program. If Mahaleel's plan had continued, we'd have a Proton MPV now!

If Mahaleel and his team were able to add better value as a manager than the current Proton 'Management', certainly the 'local players' that Thomas and Surin referred to would be able to, them being DRB-HICOM, Naza, Mofaz and Sime Darby.

I'd put DRB-HICOM as a firm favourite though. Not because I'm getting anything from it besides a huge ego boost from showing I can analyse better than the Edge, but because:
  1. Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary who controls DRB-HICOM has had a successful track record in turning around former government/GLC lagards. The best example is the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), which he took over and transformed into 2006's Lloyd's List Maritime Asia Container Terminal Of The Year. The man just knows how to build good management teams!
  2. DRB-HICOM is strongly intergrated with Proton's Manufacturing, Marketing and Finance base, what with it owning many of Proton's vendors (some needing improvements themselves, but probably easier to fix with Proton becoming a principle entity within DRB-HICOM) as well as controlling EON Capital. So, in Khazanah speak, the acqusition of Proton by DRB-HICOM has many 'synergies'!
  3. I kinda like TS Syed Mokhtar's charitable works... makes me feel his undertaking of Proton would be as it was always intended, as a grand effort to build Malaysia as a nation, rather than just building another business.

The other firms are good contenders, but each have flaws. I list them here in order of priority to me if DRB-HICOM isn't meant to get Proton, with their flaws:

2nd Choice: Sime-Darby. It has some similar, but not as strong synergy elements DRB-HICOM has, but it has a major flaw... its engaged in another 'synergy' at the moment, so may be a little distracted!

3rd Choice: Mofaz. Ala, they're a little small la bub.

Last Choice: Naza. Wow, I put Naza last (even after Mofaz!), when the Edge puts Naza head-to-head with DRB-HICOM. Well, Naza may be favoured by the 'I have no links to Naza' minister Dato' Rafidah Aziz, but there is good reason why Naza should not get Proton, or at least be considered as the last choice. Justice.

Naza is a company constructed on massive AP over-allocation's (with SM Nasimuddin being the original AP King), over-allocation of taxi licenses and some suspect the 'forgiven' under-declaration of taxes on their imported cars. It would hence be unjust for Naza to be 'rewarded' with control of Proton despite their dastardly, some would say criminal, past. Besides, if the Sutera is any indication, Naza probably doesn't really have a clue how to do more than re-badge anyway!

I hope the above Tangent addresses this idiotic commentary from the Edge on how local players can't add value to Proton. I hope its evident that where value is concerned, our local players have management competence to contribute to Proton to save it from its current state whilst avoiding it from being a complete sell-out to foreigners. In fact, better we have these local players involved when dealing with potential foreign partners, at least to save the country from more embarassment...

Actually, I should have expected the Edge's incapacity to analyse the problems at Proton to continue as the Edge has always had a mantra of,"Proton needs foreign assistance", from at least 2004 when I started to read the weekly rag.

We have of course the ever famous Gunasegaram, who after being told by Mahaleel during an interview in 2004 that Proton only needs a foreign partner that can add value(!), seems to forget this altogether, then publishes an 'editorial comment' on the interview that Proton pretty much needs any Tom, Dick and Harry foreign partner it can get. Strange commentary coming from a business rag's Chief Editor.

And then there is the ever restless Ms Leela Barrock, who after failing to convince many of her view, that Malaysia 'Tak Boleh' w.r.t. making cars (implied in her article on the 27 Dec 2004 Edge Weekly), she took a 'gloves-off' approach, volunteering herself as representing Malaysians who want Proton to begone so she can buy cheaper foreign cars! Critical business analysis it appears is not a prerequisite at the Edge when it comes to Proton bashing!

May Allah save us from such high quality analysis as the Edge's efforts on Proton, for the sake of our nation's and our own socio-economic health...

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