MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said his government may revive plans to develop a car with Indonesia, which would be sold across Southeast Asia.
During a two-day visit to the Indonesia over the weekend, Mahathir’s first state visit since taking office again in May, the PM praised Indonesia as Malaysia’s “closest neighbour” and the countries’ “family relationship”.
“In fact, a lot of Malaysians originally are from Indonesia, including my father in law,” Mahathir said at a joint press conference with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in Bogor, as quoted by Channel News Asia.
Mahathir said the neighbours had revived plans to jointly develop a car to be sold in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries.
In Japan earlier this month, Mahathir had said he hoped to begin a new car project to follow Proton, the car company founded during his first premiership stint in 1983. Proton has struggled in recent years, and last year saw Chinese auto company Geely taking a 49.9 percent stake in the carmaker.
Initially floated years ago, the so-called “Asean car” was to be developed by Proton and Indonesia’s PT Adiperkasa but the project was shelved.
“In 2015 we could not proceed because of certain reasons but now we plan to continue this project again,” Mahathir said, reflecting on meeting Jokowi in February of that year in Malaysia and test driving a Proton car.
“I was no longer the Prime Minister then,” said Mahathir who was the country’s PM for 22 years until 2003 and was re-elected in the May 2018 General election.
“I drove the car at a speed of 180 km per hour on the Sepang race circuit. The President [Jokowi] did not complain at all [when the car was driven at that speed],” he said, as quoted by Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama.
Jokowi said that “I was not afraid because the driver was Mahathir.”
Prior to leaving for Kuala Lumpur, Mahathir said that the Indonesian president had responded positively to the proposal and that private companies in both countries had shown interest in such a project, reported Bernama.
The two leaders also discussed their “similar problems” with the European Union aiming to curb its use of palm oil. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s two largest oil palm producers.
“Our palm oil is threatened by Europe and we need to oppose them together,” Mahathir said.
Additional reporting from Reuters.