Mahathir driven to airport by Sultan of Johor in 34-year-old Proton Saga
Weird flex but okay.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad concluded his meeting with the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, on Jan. 10 — in retro style.
Driven by the Sultan himself back to the airport in a metallic blue Proton Saga, Mahathir was accompanied by a complete royal escort.
A video and photo tweeted by Malaysian media outlet Bernama, showed the convoy outside Bukit Istana Serene, the Sultan’s official residence.
— BERNAMA (@bernamadotcom) January 10, 2019
Here is the translation of the tweet’s caption:
“The Sultan of Johor is pleased to send PM Dr Mahathir @chedetofficial to Senai International Airport by driving his own first edition of Proton Saga awarded to the late Sultan Iskandar in 1985.”
Mahathir, 93, also posted a video of him getting into the Proton unassisted like a sprightly young man:
Blue first generation Proton
The significance of the blue Proton Saga cannot be understated.
It is generally known that Mahathir and the Sultan of Johor do not see eye to eye.
So, this public spectacle put up by both men is something of a weird flex.
According to Free Malaysia Today (FMT), the blue Proton Saga is the very first edition ever produced, bearing the registration number Proton 1.
More importantly, it was a gift by Mahathir to the former Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Kings) in 1985, the late Sultan Iskandar of Johor, who is the father of the current Sultan of Johor.
What’s more, the Proton car was the brainchild of Mahathir four decades ago, beginning in 1979 as a national car project.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that after conceiving of the national car project, Mahathir received approval from the Malaysian Cabinet in 1982, leading to the establishment of Proton in 1983.
However, Proton began to falter in the 1990s.
Since then, Proton has been struggling.
In 2017, Chinese auto company Geely took a 49.9 percent stake in the carmaker — when the Najib Razak administration was overseeing the government.
Subsequently, in June 2018, Mahathir floated the idea of reviving Proton with Indonesia’s help.
And in September 2018, Mahathir dismissed claims that Proton had been a failure, claiming instead that Proton had been a success until foreign cars were given unrestricted access to the market.
Third national car in the works
Malaysiakini reported that a third national car project is in the pipeline, with the Malaysian Entrepreneur Development Ministry having approved funds close to RM20 million in order attract private investors for the third car.
In July 2018, Mahathir had voiced his disappointment at the negative reactions Malaysians had given towards the idea of a new national car.
In a pointed post written in Malay, Mahathir slammed Malaysians for their choice of cars and wrote that the country “would become a nation of consumers, of paddy farmers, and of fishermen”.
Top image screenshots from Bernama Twitter