PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Rakyat’s pledge to slash the tax imposed on cars has drawn criticism from political rivals, who claim that the move will deal a fatal blow to local manufacturers.
However, one Barisan Nasional leader begged to differ.
Speaking to FMT, MIC communication and publicity chief S Vell Paari questioned if the critics had purchased a Proton or Perodua model themselves.
“I wonder if those championing the need to protect Proton and Perodua have bought, owned or driven a Proton or Perodua?” he added.
On the contrary, Vell Paari, who is involved in the automotive industry, said that such a move would be beneficial to the national car makers as competition would breed innovation.
In the absence of protection, he added, Proton and Perodua would be compelled to compete with other car manufactures and this would ensure that the companies produced quality vehicles.
Citing India as an example, Vell Paari said the local manufacturers there had enjoyed protection in the past.
“But when the market was opened up, Korean manufacturer Hyundai took the nation by storm, and this forced the local manufacturers to step up their game.
“Now these companies produce excellent vehicles, and Indian company Tata Birla now owns the prestigious Jaguar and Ranger Rover brands,” he added.
The MIC central working committee member stressed that the issue was not about partisan politics but rather policies which were beneficial to the nation.
The self-confessed car enthusiast warned BN that the opposition’s pledge would have a significant impact on the voters, especially the younger generation who yearned to drive better cars.
In view of this, Vell Paari said the government should also consider re-structuring the tax imposed on cars instead of criticising Pakatan.
“If it is not feasible to scrap the tax in total, then perhaps it should be removed for cars below the RM200,000 price bracket.
“The government can continue to impose a high tax on the well-heeled who want to buy luxury vehicles but the middle-class Malaysians should be spared,” he added.
Among those who criticised Pakatan over this issue were Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali.
Vell Paari also dismissed Perkasa’s argument that the move could lead to the folding up of Proton and Perodua, therefore rendering the companies’ predominantly Malay workforce jobless.
The MIC leader said Ibrahim failed to understand that in the era of globalisation, race-based protectionism for the corporate sector would not work.
“Furthermore, wouldn’t the employees take greater pride in their work if Proton and Perodua produced world-class cars? Why keep their progress stagnant with protection?
“Competition would ensure that these workers, engineers and designers sharpen their skills and in return, this would provide better job prospects and a brighter future for them,” he added.
Vell Paari noted that both Proton and Perodua suffered a perception crisis, with their products being viewed as unreliable and unsafe but still expensive.
This perception, he stressed, must be rectified and stiff competition would be the best panacea for the malaise.
“In countries like Australia, cars are still priced cheaper despite the stringent requirements with regard to safety aspects. So why can’t we do the same?” he said.
To the average Malaysian, Vell Paari said, it was perplexing as to why he or she needed to fork out a substantial sum for a local car when these models were sold cheaper abroad.
The MIC leader called on the government to look into this issue with immediate concern.
“Don’t let Pakatan use the car issue to overtake us in the drive towards Putrajaya in the next general election,” he added.
Recently, Pakatan said it would review the National Automotive Policy (NAP) towards reducing the market price of cars if it captured the administrative capital in the next general election.