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June 20, 2008

Malaysia’s Proton still needs government support
It is crucial for the Malaysian government to continue supporting national carmaker Proton, Malaysian national news agency Bernama quoted Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, executive vice president Thai Summit Autoparts Industry as saying Thursday.

Without strong backing from the government, Proton could lose out to major players in the industry and this would have serious consequences on the various supply chains, said Thanathorn.

He said that it was important to develop the auto industry as it was the catalyst for industrial development in major countries like United States, France, Germany and Japan.

"Without Proton, many industries will collapse, thousands of people will become jobless. With Proton, other industries like autoparts, steel and petro-chemicals flourished," he said after briefing a Malaysian delegation of specialised marketing mission for automotive parts and component in Bangkok organised by Matrade, Malaysia’s .

Thanathorn, who is also the secretary-general of the Thai Auto-Parts Manufacturers Association (Tapma), said although Malaysia and Thailand took different approaches in developing their auto industries, both were successful in their own ways.

While Malaysia developed its own national car, Thailand geared itself to become the "Detroit of Asia", and currently has about 300,000 people working in 14 automobile assembly plants owned by major vehicles makers, with a total production capacity of 1.2 million vehicles per year.

Asked if he thought Thailand should have embarked on his own national car project, Thanathorn said an Asean car could had been a better option as the Malaysian and Thai markets are too small, compared to the 560 million population in the grouping's 10 member countries.

"If I was a decision maker 30 years ago, I would have gone for an Asean car. But now, the window of opportunity is closed. We cannot reverse our decision," he said.

On the 31-year-old company's overseas business, Thanathorn said Thai Summit has five plants each in Malaysia and India, as well as in Vietnam, Indonesia and China.

"We went into Malaysia 20 years ago to penetrate the market and we are there to stay. We spent about RM40 million for our two new plants in Proton City Tanjong Malim," he added.

He said Indonesia offered one of the best untapped markets in the region as there were not many strong players there, adding that Asean remains the best place to do business, compared to China or India.

Established in 1977, the Thai Summit Group comprises of 30 auto parts manufacturing subsidiaries, ranging from press, assembly, plastic injection, plastic blow molding, aluminium die-casting, wiring harness, chassis, stamping dies, assembly jigs and tooling.

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