The wife of Malaysia’s Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) passed away earlier this morning at 7:55am, Malaysian time (GMT +8). She was 64.

I join millions of Malaysians in mourning this loss. Datin Seri, you will be missed. Al-fatihah.

I’m writing this in response to a recent comment by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Proton. I don’t know how Tun Dr Mahathir sees (or saw) the national car industry as a politician, so I’m not going to comment much on that. I will instead focus my writing on how I see the Malaysian car industry.

The reasons behind the birth of Proton are noble causes indeed. Primarily, Proton is to realise the vision of creating affordable cars for Malaysians. For a while, this plan was actually heading towards the right path. The Proton Saga was definitely an affordable model.

Amidst the celebratory fanfare on its launch, the Saga met, and probably exceeded the expectations of Malaysian motorists… at least aesthetically. It looks nice, unoriginal (earlier Proton models are clones of older Mitsubishi ones), but still… nice.

It’s not long before design flaws of the Saga begin to surface, among which, the one with the most notoriety would be the infamous “power window problem”, which many claim to still haunt current Proton models.

In the meantime, the inevitable evolution in automative technology keeps moving forward. While the honchos at Proton were busy with something else (probably enjoying their earnings), it seems that they’ve forgotten that cars need to be improved upon constantly. Imported cars continue to define quality that consumers crave… but Proton, probably lulled by the market protection provided by the Malaysian government, failed to react proactively.

And when the second (and in my opinion, real) national car project, Perodua, was launched… it was obvious to almost everyone, except the staunch politician supporters of Proton, that it is gravely mismanaged, has no strategic vision beyond milking Malaysian consumers aided with the overprotective tariffs on foreign cars, and management who are out of touch with business realities.

Although placed in an “inferior” market segment (small cars, under 1000cc), Perodua didn’t take long to outshine the far bigger Proton. Perodua provides a refreshing look to Malaysians on how a dynamics automative player should be. It constantly redesigns its models to suit current trends. Although based on Daihatsu compact car models, Perodua managed to give its products an identity that is uniquely Perodua. Compared to Proton, whose current Saga model still stinks of the Iswara which is more than a decade old.

To make things worse, Proton idea of “redesign”, seems to mean making their cars more “rice-ish”, or as Malaysians (and Singaporeans) puts it “ah beng-ish”. I have no idea which market segment Proton is trying to entice… perhaps they’re just trying to add “value for money” to those people who like to transform their cheap Protons into imitation Evos and Lancers.

Marketing wise, Perodua is far more adept at identifying potential, and more importantly profiting from it. Proton, on the other hand, are champions of hype. I can’t help but feel that they like to hear the sound of their own voices… even when spouting nonsense. While Proton was busy telling whoever bothered to listen on how revolutionary their Tiara Replacement Model (now known as Savvy) will be, and publishing “teasers” on the media, Perodua pulled off one of the most intelligent publicity maneuvering in the Malaysian automative industry… it launched their latest model, the Myvi, a week before the scheduled official launching of Proton’s similar spec’ed model.

This move by Perodua, took all the buzz generated by Proton’s hype campaign and absorbed it in all it’s glory, leaving Proton dazed at the lacklustre acceptance of it’s Savvy model. Proton never recovered from this miscalculated promotional strategy. To add insult to injury, the television advertisement for Proton Savvy oozes stupidity and seem more like a junk food ad (you know, the one with a useless “free” toy inside) rather than one for a car. I’m sure that most Malaysians have seen it, the one where a monster used the Savvy to scratch its ass (or back, depending on how you see it). I was dumbfounded to say the least… the ad was amateurish, unintelligent and to be honest, blatantly false. If this was a junk food ad, I’m sure that the Malaysian Parliament will be discussing on how it misleads children and whatnot.

And don’t let me even start on the nonsense coming up from the pro-Proton camp, during the recent AP issue. You can read them yourself. It seems that these people have difficulty accepting the fact that Proton is uncompetitive. Proton’s over-reliance on government protection has blinded the company on the harsh realities of world economics. The basic law of supply and demand seems unabsorved by the strategists at Proton… how else can you explain saturating the market with rehashes of obsolete models? People won’t demand for old junk, no matter how much you change how the lights look… it still is old junk.

Another irritating tendency (politically connected) Proton supporters have is to equate Proton with nationalism. Whenever you hear these people talk on TV, it’s like you’re not Malaysian if you don’t support Proton. To be honest, Proton was a good plan… however, its implementation begs a lot of questions. Do Malaysians really benefitted from Proton, or was it Proton that profitted from Malaysians?

How I wish I could just let these people understand that market dynamics are nothing personal, and especially not political… it’s just business! You deliver what makes consumers happy, they’ll reward you with brand loyalty. You shove your products down their throat, expect them to vomit it back in your face. It has absolutely zilch to do with national pride. Live with it. Proton will probably die without even realising this… perhaps this is destined to happen anyway.

Every fsckin’ year, them stupid Indons keep doing the same shit: clearing forests by burning them. Consequentially, the whole region is enveloped by thick haze, but this year’s haze is the worse ever. You can read more Malaysian haze related news from Google News.

I hate to over-generalise, but it’s hard to see it any other way… most Indonesians are idiots (especially their government, no, strike that… Indonesians voted them morons into power, so yeah… most Indonesians are fsckin’ idiots). It’s fine and dandy if you want to burn your fskin’ forests to make way for whatever “development” (congratulations on graduating on to farming… we had a good time with that since a few hundred years ago), but for God’s sake, can’t you keep it under control? If you can’t manage things as simple as this, how the hell are you ever going to be a civilised society (not that there’s any chance of it happening in this millenium anyway).

If I sound bigoted, let me just clarify that I’m merely pissed by the irresponsible attitude of the Indonesians with regards to the cause of this haze. I don’t really have any problems with Indonesians in general… heck, my maid is Indonesian. Just as moronic as the Indonesians are Malaysians who are also contributing to the haze by committing open burning. Heck, I’ve seen a lot of these idiots when I as travelling up to Kedah a few months ago.

It seems that the haze has suddenly became a hot blogging topic by Malaysians. Well, it’s unsuprising… that’s the very nature of the blogosphere. And almost every haze related blog posting I’ve seen links to Haze Haters in KL, so I will too… by the way, us Johoreans hate the fsckin’ haze too… thankfully we’re not as severely affected as you KL and Klang Valley people.

It has been said, by the Executive Director of the Malaysian Employers Federation, Tn Hj Shamsuddin Bardan (as an aside, strangely enough, the official MEF council page says that he is the Secretary);

�Basically, a degree is not a passport to a comfortable job”, he says. He points out that employment trends in Malaysia have changed tremendously in the past decade.

This is a timely comment by someone who is really in the industry beyond the political hoopla. Somehow I feel that it somehow relates to my previous post. Most Malaysian politicians know nothing about the industrial situation other than what was grapevined to them from not so reliable sources.

In the article, Tn Haji Shamsudin touches on issues such as training fresh grads, as well as how the syllabus of our public universities are not really synchronised with the real needs of the industry. Previously, whenever I think of this issue, I primarily put the fault on to the students. Many of them don’t really put much thought into what courses they want to take and for what reasons. Most just blindly accept the first offer that they get, eventhough it’s not something they’re interested in.

However, instead of being proactive with the suggestions made by Tn Haji Shamsudin, certain segments of the academia (in this case, the VC of UKM) went on the defensive;

�For example, we have one day a week dedicated to activities in English. The students even perform dikir barat in English”, he says.

The professor vehemently disagrees with the idea that private education institutions offer a more well-rounded education than public institutions and therefore guarantee better employment opportunities.

A similar response was given by the deputy VC of UTM when I attended their Career Fairdinner in February. It all started when a GM of Panasonic Malaysia (which was the main sponsor for the fair), suggested that universities (especially public universities) should focus more on the real needs of the industry. He also stated that most graduates are ignorant of industry news and happenings. They also never put in enough effort to find out more about the companies where they are applying work. This is all too true, in my experience.

The deputy VC didn’t take the message that well. Instead of listening to a sponsor (ie. a company which has provide funding for your project), he lamented instead on public universities cannot force student to participate in more industry related activities, especially if it doesn’t have an affect on the students’ GPA. He also says that public universities have much better academic personnel compared to private universities, the problem is just that students do not appreciate this fact because the fees of public universities are much lower than private ones. My initial thought when he said this was “WTF? So you want to keep manufacturing losers from your university?”.

Afterwards, I found out that this guy has said other dumb things as well… Heck, I’ve even had the honour to listen to one of his idiotic ramblings with my date for the night. Suffice to say it involves climbing a wall to reach your car when stairs are just 10 metres away.

That night, I lost all faith of Malaysian public universities. Hopefully, things will improve. Drastically.

The Nur Amalina Story

For over two days now, the main story in the national newspapers were about the amazing achievement of Nur Amalina Che Bakri, who got 17 As (SEVENTEEN Bloody As, can you bloody believe that?!) in her SPM (for those familiar with UK style education systems, this is roughly equivalent to GCE O-Levels). I tried to find more info about SPM for your reference, but the stupid MOE web site has no such info… Ah well, 99.9% of Malaysian government department webbies are usually bloody useless anyway.

My congrats goes to Amalina for her success! If somehow you got to read this entry, please take care of yourself and try to limit your interaction with the media as soon as possible. From me experience, this kind of exposure does more harm than good. Ego is not a nice thing to have blown out of proportions.

Anyway, this aspiring gynaecologist (I believe that this is the proper translation of the Malay term “pakar sakit puan”) is very interested to continue her studies at Cambridge… a very ambitious and wise choice indeed. Based on my experience with the academic professionals who are currently staffing the local public universities, you’re much better off studying abroad anyway, especially if you can afford it…

But I guess that’s an issue to be blogged in later 🙂