KUALA LUMPUR: International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed believes that it is possible for Proton Holdings Bhd to revive the “Asean car” dream in the next five years.

Speaking to reporters at the Khazanah Megatrends Forum 2017 here today, Mustapa said it is a reasonable goal now that the national car manufacturer has China’s backing.

“Proton as an Asean car is a concept that had been there, (however) it needs the agreements of all the Asean countries. We are open to that and we will start the conversations again,” he said when asked.

“This is a beautiful idea in terms of concept but the details need to be worked out. Five years is a reasonable timeline to start this. It is not that easy as it needs the agreement of all the countries as well as issues of local content; issues of vendors and components of where they are coming from also need to be ironed out.”

China’s Dr Li Chunrong had just last week became the first non-Malaysian to head Proton’s manufacturing arm, Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd.

Li’s addition came on the back of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s (Geely) 49.9 per cent Proton stake acquisition for RM460.3 million.

“I was nominated by both (Proton parent company) DRB-Hicom Bhd and Geely to turn Proton around and I believe the Malaysian car brand will soon be the number one domestic brand and a leading Asean brand,” he had said.

Li also promised that the Proton brand will return to profitability within three to five years and eventually regain its past glory within five years.

In 10 years, Li said, Proton will be restored to being the best-selling brand within Malaysia and a top three Asean brand.

Mustapa was one of the panelists during a session entitled “Asean X OBOR X The World” on the importance of the ongoing Malaysia-China trade relations.

“Without One Belt One Road (OBOR), we would have not seen the kind of the infrastructure works and spending that we are now seeing in Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.

“We also see the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone next month as an opportunity for small and medium enterprises because the SMEs will now need to be more disciplined in terms of branding, marketing and the likes to be on this platform,” he said.