Weekend joke came early late last Friday when images of newly launched Proton Preve suffering “weird damage” made its way on the internet, filling up forums and social network Facebook, which otherwise should take a “break” from the digital world as netizens taking time off for weekend shopping. After claiming trophies as the best democracy country in the world and the cleanest electoral roll the world have ever seen, Proton was seen to be doing the right thing, at last, with the supposedly best local car ever made since former PM Mahathir proudly launched his pet project almost 30-years ago.
Just when all the Proton die hard fans were about to claim victory after 30-years of waiting for a high quality locally made car, not to mention being ridiculed and laughed at over the decades-year-old power window’s problem, the “crash accident” photos couldn’t come at a better time. Apparently the photos show a red Preve test unit with its front right wheel crooked after hitting the road curb. An editor at Top Gear Malaysia, Hezeri Samsuri, tweeted that a Proton Salesman went 120 km/h in Sentul and in his attempt to avoid a car, hit pavement and broke the lower arm assembly.
Thanks to social networking, Proton was proactive in countering the speculations and rumours circulating the web about the Preve’s quality, with its own set of (cover-up?) story via Facebook – “At around 4.45pm yesterday, one of our sales advisors was involved in an accident while driving from Jalan Sentul towards Jalan Pahang in KL, when the Proton Prevé that he was driving hit a divider and landed awkwardly causing the lower arm to break.”
Proton should be credited for being cool over the so-called accident and it even showed its sense of humour by advising drivers to buckle up and drive safe to prevent accident. Obviously Proton tries to play down the photos by blaming and treating it as a normal accident. But the “accident” had created some sort of damage and embarrassment to the national carmaker as can be read from the car critics on the net. Critics were having fun calling Prevé another failure. They even sarcastically said they finally understood Proton Prevé slogan – Drive It To Believe It – in reference to the weird and awkward broken lower arm.
Unless Proton was able to pacify the criticisms by employing foreign independent automobile’s version of CSI into the accident with pages of forensic investigations, which is highly unlikely, this latest awkward accident would be played again in the future by its critics. The fact that the car didn’t experience obvious damages to the bumper, tyres, rim or other exterior parts but only the broken lower arm raises doubts to the Proton’s side of the story. As awkward as Proton tries to put it into its explanation, critics just don’t buy the story and cry another cover-up (and failure).
But it would be a suicidal mission for Proton to cover-up such a story, if indeed there’re some sort of defects in the whole suspension system as such accident is bound to happen again to the next unfortunate Prevé owners, unless this is a unique isolated case which is extremely difficult to re-produce. The joke went into high gear when the sales adviser who drove the car at the rumoured 120km/h before hitting the divider is now a very rich person as he / she may have been paid for his / her silence, not to mention only this person can re-create the stunt to land the vehicle in such an awkward position in order to break the lower arm (*grin*) – while maintaining the tyre, rim, bumper and whatnot in beautiful condition.
To add insult to injury, critics add fuels to the bad publicity about Prevé dashboard’s button pop-in and bad weld joints in the supposedly global brand car. There’re also jokes that the awkward accident was not caused by any defects but rather one of the many world-class features available only in the Prevé technology. Somehow the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) together with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), TC (Traction Control) and whatnot decided to self-destroy (read: Mission Impossible) the lower arm after sensing a huge pothole about 100-metres away. In the process the ESC-EBD-TC futuristic technology saved many lives (*it seems there was an ignorant person fishing at the pothole but nevertheless his life was saved by Prevé’s cutting-edge technology, woohoo*).
Equally enthusiastic to protect Proton’s brand, its fanatic fans put the blame squarely on the reckless driver – Proton sales adviser. They further argued that if even a Lamborghini Aventador worth more than RM1 million caught fire, it is perfectly justifiable for a RM70,000 Prevé to break its lower arm. Taking the easy way out, Proton fans ask critics to buy other brands if they hate Proton so much, drawing similiar cry from certain groups who once asked the Chinese and Indian to go back to China, India or wherever they came from, if they don’t like the country.
As much as Proton supporters wish for the local carmaker to prosper and Mahathir’s attempt to assure the public about the extra Ringgit worth spend on the latest Proton Prevé, the fact remains that Proton still have miles of catching up to do with other global automobile brands. You can’t blame the frustrated local critics for questioning Proton’s quality and reliability after 30-years of protection from foreign competition by excessive excise taxes, import duties, sales taxes and whatnot. It’s amusing that these blind supporters do not wish to pay 65% less tax in excise taxes on even their locally-made Proton cars.
Do you know that the Malaysian Government makes a cool profit of an estimated RM6 billion on cars through excise taxes every year? Wouldn’t you wish to pay only RM44,000 for a Prevé 1.6 Premium CVT rather than RM73,000, after minus the 65% tax? How about RM67,000 for a Honda Civic (instead of RM120,000); RM149,000 for a new F30 BMW 3-Series 320d (instead of RM268,000) or Volkswagen Polo GTI (180 PS) TSI at RM76,000 instead of RM133,000, after minus the 75% to 80% in excise taxes alone? You can bet all your money that the once Proton die-hard supporters would leave in droves to Volkswagen salesrooms for the Polo GTI if the price of the German-made car is at RM76,000 each (*grin*).
Regardless whether the Prevé awkward accident was an isolated case which should be taken with a pinch of salt or there was indeed a serious defect with the overall design system only waiting to be revealed is immaterial at this stage. There’s a bigger fish to catch. Maybe it’s about time for both Proton supporters and bashers to agree to a conclusion after 30-years of rip-off. That is – the government should lower or better still eliminate the excise taxes on cars for the benefits of its own people.
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