Proton, owned by DRB-Hicom since early last year, will unveil a turnaround plan next month aimed at improving the company’s image while increasing sales and income streams, former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Mahathir, who helped establish Proton in 1983 and is still an adviser to the company, said the car maker was at a crucial juncture as it has to produce globally-competitive cars to compete with foreign car companies which formed a significant portion of Malaysia's total automotive industry volume.

"We cannot be always producing cheap cars. If that is the case, we will lose the confidence of Malaysians as it is a general view that cheap cars does not come with quality," he said.

Dr Mahathir said that DRB-Hicom was committed to boosting the image of the national car company from merely a local company to a global and well-respected car maker.

Malaysia’s car market – 628,000 cars last year and predicted to reach 640,000 this year – was ‘over-crowded’ which is why Proton needs to concentrate on exports, he said.

Proton and Perodua account for just over 50% of the Malaysian car market.