The Truth About Cars » Malaysia The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:26:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Malaysia Let The Lotus Deathwatch Begin. Or Shall We Simply Pull The Plug? Tue, 15 Jan 2013 14:29:04 +0000

The Paris Five. All aborted

Another inspiration for wet dreams of easily impressed juvenile car bloggers is dying, is bleeding to death and has a “do not resuscitate” note nailed to the head.  Lotus has been given up for dead.

Blogs from autoevolution all the way to our sister pub Autoguide reprint the happy PR fluff that Lotus wants to “boost sales five times by 2015.” With sales crawling along at homeopathetic 1,043 units allegedly produced in 2012, making 5,000 by 2015 doesn’t sound like such a big deal. Trust me, it is if you want to sell them also. By 2015, the Lotus cars will still be sitting on technology that is ripe for the museum, and there is no relief in sight. Only poor car bloggers would be a target group ripe for a 20 year old Lotus – if sold used, preferably with a salvage title. is a blog that has boots and ears on the ground in Kuala Lumpur, and it actually goes to press conferences given by Lotus owner DRB-Hicom. Paul Tan reports that if you’ve been waiting for the new Lotus Esprit or Elan, or any of the five Lotus concepts that had been shown 2010 Paris motor show (yes, that far back) you need to abandon all hope. They won’t happen, DRB-Hicom group Managing Director Datuk Seri Mohd Khamil Jamil told the press in KL. And by the way, plans had been cancelled even before the DRB-Hicom acquired Proton. As in: Forget about it. We never meant it.

Says Paul Tan: “The ‘Paris five’ were the Esprit, Elan, Eterne, Elite and the new Elise, which was supposed to replace the current one.”  No replacement für Elise, sorry.

Mohd Khamil told the press that Lotus must soldier on with the already ancient metal. “They may be old, but they remain good cars and there is still demand for them,” Mohd Khamil said. What else would you say in his shoes?

Khamil held out the possibility of a new Exige and Evora for after 2015, an announcement nobody can take really seriously. Development takes money, and there is none. A $434 million loan from six financial institutions has been used up, Khamil said.

Monday press conference: All peachy in non-car sectors

There is little chance for fresh funds:

Lotus may be famous for its cars, but the most memorable achievement was “making losses for the past 15 years,” as the Business Times reports from Kuala Lumpur. This achievement was crowned by a “record loss” of $185 million last year, as the Times of London wrote over the weekend.  The report comes with the good news that “Lotus breached banking covenants on a £270m financing facility. Last January lenders froze funding to the firm.”  Ouch.

At the weekend press conference Mohd Khamil said that the brand is not for sale. A few companies had looked into buying Lotus, or even all of Proton, but they didn’t like what they saw. Rumors that Volkswagen might be interested in buying Proton are floated with regularity in KL, as late as a few days ago, totally unfazed by prior firm statements by Volkswagen’s labor chief and vice chairman of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, Bernd Osterloh, that Proton won’t be bought. Volkswagen has an existing joint venture with Proton, and sees no reason to change that. When Osterloh talks, Volkswagen listens.

The buzz in Malaysia is that DRB-Hicom is stuck with Proton and Lotus which it took over as a favor to Malaysian politicians. In Malaysia, the government likes to “encourage” government-dependent companies to take failures off the government’s hands.  Loss-making companies get passed around to companies who can’t refuse, and get financing from equally hapless government banks or pension funds or state companies.

My contacts in Kuala Lumpur think that DRB-Hicom has agreed to keep Proton alive in exchange for favors from the government. DRB-Hicom is a Malay conglomerate, involved in everything from the Kuala Lumpur Airport, over arms production, all the way to waste management.  DRB-Hicom must remain in the government’s good graces. The question is how long it will be able to tolerate pain and bleeding.

At another press conference yesterday, DRB-Hicom sung the praises of its other sectors, namely services, property, assets and construction, while valiantly holding out the failed prospect of turning Malaysia into an automotive powerhouse. It didn’t work before, and it will work even less in the future. Car producing neighbors Thailand and Indonesia are pressuring Malaysia to remove trade barriers as promised when they signed the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. Malaysia has sabotaged this as much as it can, but it can’t stop the ASEAN FTA from making Proton less and less competitive, and a takeover target nobody wants and needs.

All of this however never enters a budding car blogger’s wet dreams. That’s good, the young folks should not suffer nightmares at an early age.


]]> 20
Proton, Honda Announce Collaboration In Malaysia Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:00:15 +0000

Ahead of their crucial announcement outlining the future of Proton, parent company DRB-Hicom (also of Lotus fame) has announced that they will partner with Honda, after a long courtship process that involved numerous auto makers.

An official announcement from DRB-Hicom outlined the partnership agreement

Under the Agreement, PROTON and HONDA MOTOR will explore collaboration opportunities in the areas of technology enhancement, new product line up, platform and facilities’ sharing (“Proposed Collaboration”).

No announcement has come from Honda so far, and the words “joint venture” and “Malaysia” are conspicuously absent, leaving us at the mercy of our collective imagination. Are Lotus-tuned Acuras on the horizon? More likely is the prospect of Honda technology making its way into small cars that can eventually be exported to countries like Australia. And what about low-cost cars, a segment Honda is absent from entirely? Could there be synergy with Proton somehow? Only time will tell.

]]> 7
$350,000 MSRP, Tax, Title, And Humidor Extra Thu, 11 Oct 2012 12:46:41 +0000 Reuters has a great story about a car company you probably never heard about. It is in Malaysia and makes cars that look like out of an antique car catalog. The company can’t keep up with the demand.

The car company is called Bufori. If you want one, you need to get in line and wait two years until  hand-made car is ready. The cars cost between $150,000-$350,000 new, individual touches can drive the price higher.

Bufori founder Gerry Khouri started the company in his native Australia in 1987. He moved to Malaysia in the early 90s when Asian demand began to jump. China and the Middle East are Bufori’s biggest markets right now.

The Geneva is s powered by a 6.4-litre V8 engine with up to 470 horsepower. Optional coffee machine, Mini Bar, safe and humidor.

The La Joya has a 172hp V6, a 3 piece 100% silk Persian carpet set is optional.

The Ur-Bufori BUFORI Madison 1986-1988 -  Picture courtesy Bufori Bufori Mk II. Picture courtesy Bufori Bufori Mk I. Picture courtesy Bufori Bufori La Joya 2. Picture courtesy Bufori Bufori La Joya. Picture courtesy Bufori Bufori Geneva. Picture courtesy Bufori Bufori in Beijing. Picture courtesy Bufori Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 18
Buy Nine Car Washes, Get One Sex Free Thu, 13 Sep 2012 08:36:19 +0000


A massage parlour and a car wash outlet in the Sunway Mentari suburb of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, engaged in a flourishing joint venture until it was disrupted by police last week. After nine car washes, customers received a free detailing – but not of the car.

“To get the extra ‘offer’, customers must send their cars for washing nine times within a certain period. The tenth car wash will entitle them to free sex,” Emmi Shah Fadhil, officer-in-charge of the local Crime Prevention Division told  the Malay Mail.

Car-less customers, or those who did not want to wait for nine car washes for free sex could pay between 130 and 180 Malaysian ringgit ($42 and $58) for immediate gratification.

A raid of the premises led to the arrest of four men, none of them customers, and “nine Vietnamese women, believed to be prostitutes and GROs, aged between 18 and 28,” says the paper. A report by the Malaysia Chronicle says that the raid netted evidence in form of “several condoms stashed inside a microwave.”

According to a source familiar with Malaysia, GRO stands for “Guest Relations Officer,” and usually applies to women employed by night clubs. PC speak has reached Malaysia, where GRO takes the place of WG, or working girl. Just in case you wanted to know.

The car wash connection was only revealed after loyalty cards were found on several customers (who were not arrested.)

In a blatant act of discrimination, the operation “only allowed patrons of a certain ethnicity to enter,” says the politically correct Malaysia Chronicle. Further research revealed that the services were only available to Chinese, apparently in an effort of not to upset the predominantly Muslim indigenous population.

]]> 15
Proton Boycotts Sales Data, Says It’s The Law Sat, 01 Sep 2012 12:36:25 +0000

Uh-oh: Our colleagues and fellow market watchers in Malaysia were waiting and waiting for market data for the month of July, but none arrived. With August about to end, they stared to ask questions. They were told there won’t be any data. No, it wasn’t because Malaysia suddenly is like Europe. In the Old Country, July data traditionally are supplied in September,because Europe is on vacation in August.

No, it was because Proton suddenly refused to supply its data.

Without Proton, one of Malaysia’s two sizable automakers, the statistics would be for the birds, reasoned the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA), and called the whole report off. Proton had a surprising excuse for not submitting its sales count. Reports Malaysia’s Motor Trader:

“Proton’s refusal to supply the data is due to its belief that doing so would be an offence under the Competition Act which came into being at the start of this year. The Act, which is intended to prevent price-fixing (among other things), suggests that sharing of data by car companies is an act of collusion.”

Other car companies also curtailed their reporting over the last 6 month, but they still provide ‘top-level’ data, i.e. overall sales volumes but not data on sales of individual models.

Nasty observers could be inclined to think that troubled Proton has something to hide.

Tip of the songkok to Polar Bear

]]> 5
Für Elise: Volkswagen Interested In Lotus And All Of Proton While They are At It Thu, 26 Jul 2012 18:47:38 +0000

As you read this, an old friend of mine is probably packing. Who knows, he could already be in the air. He was Volkswagen’s boots on the ground in Malaysia, the many times VW wanted to get its boots on the ground in Malaysia. Last time they tried in 2007, they disrupted Dirk’s retirement and sent him to Kuala Lumpur, where dealers of fake watches greeted him as the old friend he was by that time.  German media says, Volkswagen did not give up and they are trying again.

Volkswagen is said to be talking (again) to Malaysia’s Proton, owned by Malaysian automotive and property conglomerate DRB-HICOM. Now is a good time to buy. Lotus, owned by Proton, has burned through all of a loan facility made available.  DRB-Hicom pumped another $300 million into Lotus this year and is looking at pumping more.  The departure of the flamboyant, but unimportant Dany Bahar from the flamboyant, but unimportant Lotus made bigger headlines than the fact that this is yet another supercar pipedream going up in smoke, but that’s the way it is. Three days ago, it was reported that Proton rejected an offer of one British pound for Lotus. That’s how much the brand is worth now.

Proton, a brainchild of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was supposed to propel Malaysia as much into the future as its electronics industry. It did not happen. Mitsubishi pulled out a few years ago. Lotus, the maker of lightweight sports cars, was no replacement for a heavyweight international partner. Proton only survived, more or less, due to protectionist laws in Malaysia. In the meantime, Malays begin to rebel against high priced low tech cars. The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement exposes Proton to the increasingly rough winds of competition.

Volkswagen probably would not mind adding yet another brand to its growing collection, especially when it means that they can invest the very important South East Asian market with Volkswagen’s bread and butter cars. Volkswagen already contracted Proton for CKD production of the Passat. Jetta and Polo are planned to follow, says Reuters. Germany’s Manager Magazin said last week that Volkswagen could be interested yet again in Proton. Today, two inside sources told Reuters that Volkswagen might “seek either a minority holding in the owner of UK sports-car manufacturer Lotus or a controlling stake.”

I tried calling my friend in Germany, but nobody is picking up.


]]> 30
Lotus Scales Back New Model Development Amid Bahar Departure Thu, 26 Jul 2012 16:38:54 +0000

Lotus’ new owner, Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom, has revised their future model plans, reducing the scale of former CEO Dany Bahar’s ambitious 5-car lineup.

According to an investment analyst interviewed by Malaysian media outlet The Star, Lotus will cut back their new model plans from 5 nameplates to 3, but that the strategy was still being worked out. The analyst, working for Malaysian firm RHB Research, met with DRB-Hicom officials to discuss future plans.

According to RHB, there is healthy demand in China for Lotus cars, and the company is producing as many cars as possible based on a single shift work schedule. RHB claims that DRB-Hicom plans to hang on to Lotus, and see through the introduction of new vehicles, based on a common platform. No specifics were given regarding the nature of the vehicles.


]]> 12
Was DRB-Hicom’s “Due Diligence” The Beginning And The End For Dany Bahar And Lotus? Thu, 07 Jun 2012 12:00:06 +0000

Lotus CEO Dany Bahar’s 14 day suspension is set to expire on Monday. We have no idea what will happen next. He may get the boot, taking his ambitious five-year product plan with him. Or he may not. Putting the pieces together since Lotus was taken over by DRB-Hicom has painted an interesting picture, while still leaving the future of Lotus up in the air.

In the end, it turned out that Bahar received his suspension for some spending practices that Lotus and independent auditors found questionable, including renovations to his rented home totaling $54,152, and over $1.5 million in private aircraft fees. According to the Daily Mail, the paper that broke the story, Bahar received compensation worth $1.85 million on top of those perks, while Lotus had an operating loss of $1.5 million in 2011, along with debts of $309 million.

Despite fears of parent company DRB-Hicom (owner of Proton, which in turn owns Lotus) offloading the Lotus brand to the Chinese (a common fear for enthusiasts), it looks like Lotus might be safe under Malaysian stewardship for the near future. DRB-Hicom initiated an independent audit  of the company back in March, following compliance failure for a 2010 loan worth nearly $418 million, which was being guaranteed by Proton. A report in the Malaysian press detailed the issue

In March, Proton, in its third quarter results, noted that its subsidiary was in a technical breach of certain post drawdown covenants on its existing long-term loan. It has requested for an extension of time to fulfil the covenants and has submitted an appeal to the lenders.

For now, the loan amounting to RM1.01bil had been re-classified as a short-term loan as at Dec 31, until the receipt of approval for the extension of time.”

Early March was also the start of Lotus suspending development of the new Esprit, while also putting a hold on Bahar’s five-year plan. Officially, only day to day operations could be carried out under Malaysian takeover laws while DRB-Hicom conducted its due diligence of Lotus, which may have ended up being the audit discussed in the above reports by the Malaysian press. That period was supposed to have wrapped up by the end of March, but in mid-April, Bahar seemed to have no idea regarding the future direction of the company, aside from DRB-Hicom’s indications that they’d hang on to Lotus. But by May, Bahar was in the doghouse just when he claimed that a decision on his plan would be made, and Proton’s managing director and CFO resigned, and the company issued another denial that it had planned to sell Lotus.

The July issue of EVO magazine claims that only 43 new Lotus cars were registered in the UK at the time of publication, with eight cars registered in April, 2012. In 2011, 37 Lotus cars were registered in that month alone. Despite this, Lotus is claiming that the poor sales are a result of a re-jigging of their dealer network, and that they have orders for 1,168 cars in total [Bahar claimed 1162 in an April web interview with EVO].

The tragedy here seems to be that Lotus is on the up-swing in terms of product. The Evora S, Exige S V6 and Elise S have been well-received by the press, and Bahar’s future plans for a new Esprit and an expanded model range looked like they’d be the kind of cars that could expand the appeal of Lotus cars beyond the narrow hard-core enthusiast customer base. If the allegations are true, then Bahar may have become a victim of the kind of hubris and irresponsible behavior that has been the downfall of countless individuals. Let’s see what Monday holds.

]]> 11
Adventures In Global TV Marketing: The Citroën AX Thu, 10 Feb 2011 20:30:10 +0000
Sure, Internet video is mostly about dental-fetish porn (particularly the very stimulating “spit sink” subgenre), but when the novocaine wears off and the last vinyl-clad hygienist has put aside her last stainless-steel scraper, you’re ready to explore the other great thing about Internet video… old television ads for the Citroën AX. The AX had quite a run, being built for model years 1986 through 2000 (counting the Proton-built version, the Tiara), and— who knows?— its tooling may yet be brought back into action in some out-of-the-way corner of the world.

Since assembling this collection of Citroën ads a couple years back, I’ve associated the AX with this early French-market ad showing a woman using the Great Wall of China as an exclusive highway for her AX. She catches some serious air, then stops short when a couple of ancient Long March veterans express their revolutionary approval. Down with the Four Olds!

Continuing the “revolutionary Asian locale” theme, Citroën then headed to Tibet, where an AX shows its off-road prowess on the way to a visit with a holy man. No doubt the Chinese government wasn’t so happy about this one, but Citroën sales in China didn’t amount to much in the late 1980s.

As the AX matured and a GT model came out, French-market advertisers decided they’d head over to New York City— like China, a place not known for street-driven AXs— and show off the car’s ability to get through madhouse traffic. In fact, the AX GT can squeeze through traffic even faster than a super-hip bike messenger with a willingness to ride down stairways and over the roofs of gridlocked cars.

In Spain, potential AX buyers must have focus-grouped as being fascinated by the American Southwest, because we’ve got a Harley-riding thug stalking a beautiful, AX-driving young woman from a desert greasy spoon to a railroad crossing. I won’t give away the surprise ending, which apparently is meant to show that the AX is practical as well as sexy, but it sure looks like the start of a made-for-TV serial-killer drama to me.

Citroën UK’s marketers decided to go with cuteness for this 1992 advert; a cartoon cupid’s arrows can’t catch the nimble AX and melt the cold, cold heart of the protagonist’s female companion. Thwarted! But wait! The AX itself gets the job done, and the camera fades to black as the couple prepares to make with the bouncy-bouncy on the road shoulder. Yes, the AX makes a man a real bull on the springs, if I may rip off a Bukowski-ism; it’s the Frenchness that does it. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t that car left-hand drive?

Mazda’s short-lived Eunos brand sold the AX in Japan for a few years in the early 90s, and the JDM-car-ad requirements of jaunty music, sexy foreign woman, and macho voiceover are all met in this ’91 AX ad.

But you really need to bring the AX to Malaysia to unlock the true advertising potential. This two-minute-long special-effects extravaganza for the Proton Tiara features a canoe-paddlin’ hero, a tiger that morphs into a tiger-striped muscleman, and an attractive— though modestly dressed, no doubt in deference to Malaysia’s Muslim population— woman who uses magical powers to summon a Tiara from the ether.

It’s for the CX and we’ve all seen it before, but it seems wrong to talk about classic Citroën ads without showing the what-the-hell-were-they-thinking “Robot Grace Jones” ’84 CX ad.

]]> 12
Ages In The Making, Volkswagen Finally Inks Malaysia Deal Tue, 21 Dec 2010 10:19:24 +0000

Volkswagen had been trying for ages to get their foot in the door in Malaysia, but for some reason or another, it never worked out. In August, they signed a memorandum of understanding with DRB-HICOM. In September, it became known that the Malaysian government is evaluating applications from five foreign automakers, which put Volkswagen’s Malaysian move in question again. But fear not, the deal is done.

Volkswagen proudly announces that “Christian Klingler, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, and representatives from the partner company DRB Hicom today signed an agreement for local vehicle assembly in the presence of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Passat models are to be assembled from the end of 2011 with a view to the long-term development of the Malaysian automobile market.”

The Passats will be assembled from CKD kits, and only a few thousand a year. However, “it is planned to build further Volkswagen models for the Malaysian market on the basis of a local full scale production in a second expansion phase from the end of 2012.”

DRB-HICOM is a Malaysian powerhouse with experience in assembling foreign cars for Honda, Suzuki and Mercedes-Benz. With a nationwide sales network, DRB Hicom is one of the most important automobile dealers and importers in Malaysia.

Interesting tidbit: The revised Malaysian National Automotive Policy of 2010 contains such expected measures to protect the nascent auto industry as a ban on used parts from 2011 on. Importation of used cars to Malaysia will be illegal as of 2015. So far, so unsurprising.

However, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority stressed again that “foreign automakers, in order to qualify for the manufacturing licence, are only allowed to assemble cars of 1800 cc or more.”

That’s 1.8 liters or MORE. Inscrutable orient.

]]> 3
PSA Looks (South) East Fri, 01 Oct 2010 14:42:19 +0000

Putting Brazil aside for a second (Sorry, Marcello!) Asia is where the car industry is looking for their next piece of pie. There’s Russia (let’s face it, Russia is more in Asia that it is in Europe), China, Japan and India. All markets with either big potential and/or plenty of customers. But there is a 5th place which always gets overlooked. South East Asia. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore are growing just as well, as the aforementioned countries, but never get the same attention. Well, someone has noticed their potential.

Industry Week reports that Peugeot-Citroen (PSA) has announced a deal with Malaysian car maker Naza, to use Naza’s plant in Gurun, Malaysia, to build PSA cars for export around the ASEAN region (which has a free trade agreement). The plan is to make this factory in Malaysia its regional hub for South East Asia. PSA Malaysia Manager Vincent Comyn believes that this trading block will have annual sales of 3 million units. This is quite a conservative estimate, considering that annual sales in this trading area are already 1.1 million. “Here we have a good partnership with Naza. We plan to steadily increase our line-up of Peugeot cars in the ASEAN market,” Comyn said. Those big ambitions will need big planning.

In Malaysia alone, Perodua and Proton make up 70 percent of the market. Toyota, Honda and Nissan take up what’s left. PSA is going to need more than a free trade agreement to achieve this goal.

]]> 4
This Time It’s Serious: Volkswagen Tries Again In Malaysia Sat, 14 Aug 2010 17:27:39 +0000

Malaysia is a country of close to 30m people and Volkswagen wants a slice of the pie. They already tried, but found out that getting a slice is not a piece of cake. Playing footise with Malysia’s Proton was a perennial on again, off again affair that led to nothing. Last time, it looked like VW would set up a CKD operation in Malaysia by themselves, but now it seems that they have found a partner. Not Proton. Not again.

It is reported that DRB-HICOM Bhd and Volkswagen AG  signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the assembly and manufacturing of Volkswagen vehicles in Malaysia. The goal is to produce CKD (completely knocked down) Volkswagen in Malaysia.

CKD is basically a kit car. You get all the parts in a big box, and then assemble it locally, usually by hand. It’s one of the most nonsensical ways of building a car. The only sense it typically makes is to circumvent customs duty or other import restrictions. If those wouldn’t be there, importing the whole car would make more sense.

CKD assembly is the core business of DRB-HICOM. They have experience in assembling foreign cars for Honda, Suzuki and Mercedes-Benz in Malaysia.

The Volkswagen CKD models will be assembled in Pekan, one of DRB-HICOM’s plants in Malaysia.

]]> 4
VW To Make Cars In Malaysia. Again Wed, 24 Mar 2010 15:31:47 +0000

Malaysia is an economic boom-town, and a country of 28m people. Import duties on foreign cars can run as high as 300 percent. According to unconfirmed rumors, this is to protect the two local makers, Proton & Perodua.

Many foreign car makers have tried to get a chunk of that protected market. One of them is Volkswagen, which does a booming business next door in China.

In 2004, Proton announced a strategic partnership with Volkswagen. Grand plans were hatched. Malaysia was to be come VW’s South East Asia hub, and an eport country. It was all talk, no action, and the deal fell apart in 2007.

Now, VW wants to try again. reports that “Volkswagen Group Malaysia Sdn Bhd expects to finalise its plans to set up an assembly plant for its completely-knocked-down (CKD) models in Malaysia by first half of this year.” Volkswagen Group Malaysia was launched 2006, as part of the abortive Proton maneuver.

The company has yet to decide what cars to assemble in Malaysia, most likely it will be the Golf and New Beetle. Also now word where the kit karts will come from. China would be a good guess.

This will not be the first time VWs are bolted together from kits in Malaysia: From 1967 to 1985, there was some CKD production. The Beetle was assembled from 1968 to 1977. The first generation of the Golf and the VW van saw Malaysian production. A VW Caravelle Van was the last locally assembled VW.

Some of the best locally produced VW products were the Volkswagen ads, created by DDB Malaysia.

]]> 0