In Malaysia, government officials apparently like to kill the messenger who brings bad tidings - or at least get him sacked. National carmaker Proton suffered an embarrassment when a senior executive of its partner Mitsubishi questioned its ability to survive in an unprotected market.
Fumio Yoshimi, Mitsubishi's general manager for Southeast Asia, soon incurred the wrath of industry minister Rafidah Aziz. She told him to stop criticizing Proton publicly.
Days later, a Mitsubishi spokesman said Yoshimi would be needed back home in Tokyo. With his considerable international experience, Yoshimi was to help sort out Mitsubishi's restructuring after the alliance with Daimler-Chrysler.
Proton announced that Yoshimi had 'resigned.'
Yoshimi had been appointed to Proton's board in mid-July. Just a week later, it was widely reported that he doubted the company could hold its dominant market share if Malaysia opened up for free trade. He also was quoted as saying that with a capacity of 230,000 units, Proton was not big enough to develop its own engine program. That was a touchy issue for Malaysia's quixotic prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, who personally protects Proton from regional competition.
After he drew fire from Malaysian officials, Yoshimi vehemently denied having said anything of the sort. But he did not retract comments about 'four short years' (before Malaysia is to join the regional free-trade area) being insufficient time for Proton to learn how to cut costs. Yoshimi's diplomatic skills will be much in demand during upcoming discussions between Tokyo and Stuttgart.