“Misinterpreted” and “out of context” is how Mitsubishi Motors’ Fumio Yoshimi has responded to the controversial remarks attributed to him in a Reuters report which was released last Friday and reported widely.
Mr Yoshimi, who is General Manager (SE Asia) of the International Car Operations Dept (M) of Mitsubishi Motors and also alternate director (for Y. Kondo)of Proton, was reported as having made gloomy forecasts of Proton’s future. His remarks were strongly criticised by the International Trade & Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, who said that Mitsubishi’s role, as a partner in Proton, was to assist in cutting costs and making Proton competitive – rather than just giving negative views.
A fax communication between Mitsubishi Motors and Reuters’ Malaysian correspondent (dated July 22nd) which AUTOWORLD.COM.MY saw today shows that Mr Yoshimi had said that “despite several telephone conversations with you yesterday night, with a request for you to amend inappropriate sentences and also to include proper additional comments, this was not reflected in your update…”.
He further blames Reuters’ report for having subjected him to strong criticism from the minister and considers the report ‘defaming’ which can ‘jeopardise our good cooperation with Proton’.
On the specific remarks attributed to him, Mr Yoshimi provided clarification. The first one concerned the statement that Proton would be unable to compete after the market opens up in 2005 and that it will not be easy to cut costs and improve quality in four years.
Mr Yoshimi denied making such statements and said that his remarks were: “It is very important to reduce local parts’ cost and also to improve parts quality to be equal to the international competitive standard. It is also wise to expand the range of products, for example, such as the small 4×4 and multi-purpose vehicle that was announced by Proton in March.”
A second controversial remark attributed to him was that he believed the removal of tariff protection for Proton would see its domestic share falling from the more than 60% at present to less than 30%.
Mr Yoshimi also denied making such a forecast and clarified that he only referred to one of the journalist’s observations and that person’s own opinion of the fall in market share.
He also made it clear that he did not suggest that the investment cost for Proton to make its own engine and transmission was too high considering the volume of 240,000 units a year. In the fax sent to Reuters, Mr Yoshimi stated that his reply to the question on the ‘feasibly viable volume of investment on engine and transmission’ was: “I do not have a specific figure to justify the amortization of large amount of investment.”
He did agree that Proton, at present, is importing engine and transmission parts from Mitsubishi Motors which can cause a large impact on imported price hike due to the prevailing strong Japanese yen against the Malaysian ringgit in the forex movement.
Mr Yoshimi also noted that his comment that “Mitsubishi Motors who are currently in good ties with Proton will continue with full cooperation to support all Proton’s operations” was not reported.
Proton officials have so far declined to comment on the issue and to date, no statement has been issued by the company.