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Malaysia Eyes Sale of Proton as Mahathir's Auto Dream Dies

  • National car champ seeks foreign tie-up as financial woes grow
  • Quality problems and bad acquisitions left Proton wounded
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Photographer: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg
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Proton was supposed to drive Malaysia into the future -- not into a ditch.

In its day, automaker Proton Holdings was a source of national pride and the centerpiece of a bold strategy by Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s leader for more than two decades, to turn his country into an industrialized powerhouse equal to Asian Tigers like South Korea and Taiwan. The former prime minister founded the company in 1983, calling its first sedan, the Saga, an icon of “national dignity.”