Monday, November 15, 2004

Mitsubishi's insincerity, Proton's dishonesty

Heard the first 'jingle bell jingle bell' melody for the first time this year at the pedestrian mall last week. Rather late, if compared to the Philippines where an old buddy once told me that the Christmas songs kick off in first of the 'ber' months.

Saw the headline the other day, 'Toyota and Mitsubishi setting up shop in Thailand' and wondered what effect this has on the minds of the so-called automakers in Malaysia. Maybe, zero effect.

Anyway, it is the continuous outpouring of headaches and heartaches by Malaysian consumers on the 'national car maker' that prompted me to think about one code that is sorely missing in Malaysian public affairs; that is, 'honesty'. With this endless trail of customer uproars ever since the coinage of that word 'Proton', it is getting to be quite a marvel just how in the world Proton can pretend that everything is all goody-goody.

Her initial partner, Mitsubishi Motors these days is a pale shadow of its former glory. Sales are plummeting as the Japanese customers stay away in hordes. How can they not, when tires get dislodged, transmission shafts get overheated and catch fire, and brakes suddenly becoming ineffective while on the road?

Mitusbishi was not sincere. The company concealed the fact that numerous defects occurred in their models so as not to initiate any recalls for free repairs or replacements of parts. Praise should go to the Japanese government for forcing Mitsubishi to return to its roots. Recently, Mitsubitshi was finally compelled to recall all their models for inspection, repairs, and/or replacement of parts.

Insincerity occurs in Japan and everywhere. Rather, the challenge is; can the relevant authorities coerce Proton to be honest and to commence a recall such as that of Mitsubishi?

In 1998, I visited a Mitsubishi Motors factory at Kyoto. The Section Chief who guided me relayed that the company was very disappointed with Proton's decision to scale back on their collaboration. That was the time when former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticized the Japanese company for not transferring enough technology to Proton. As if to spike Mitsubishi, Proton subsequently went French, and British later, but that's another story.

The Section Chief then offered his thoughts on the Proton and Hyundai staff that came to the factory for training. Proton trainees purposely 'forgot' to bring back the training documents given to them by Mitsubishi. They left the documents at their hotel rooms when departing Japan.

Hyundai trainees on the other hand, were not just satisfied with the training documents received. When told that they could not enter a certain room, they went outside and started to jump up and down the window, hoping to catch a glimpse into the 'secrets'. Very aggressive, he added.

A result of those deeds? Well, how about, 'Hyundai flying, Proton still clueless...'

And now, this mushy-mushy love affair with the German maker, Volkswagon. I gawked upon reading that Bernama report 'Little Notebook Did The Trick In VW-Proton Tie-up'. It said, 'All it took was a little notebook measuring about 4 by 3 inches (7.6 x 10.1 cm) to convince the top management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellaschaft (VW AG) that a deal with Proton Holdings Bhd will be in their best interest after four months of tough negotiations.'

It seems Bernama would want to have readers believe that Proton is doing VW a big favor.

Let's see how long this fickle infatuation with the Germans will last.