Malaysia's newly-elected prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said his government was considering introducing new restrictions on car imports to help nurture the country's "infant" domestic automotive industry.

The statement was made at the government's House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) on Monday and followed remarks Mahathirmade in June, soon after his re-election, that he was considering establishing a new national car programme in response to the sale last year of a strategic stake in Proton Holdings to China's Zhejiang Geely Holdings Group (owner of Volvo and London Taxis).

In his previous 22-year term as prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir was responsible for the establishment of national car companies Proton, Perodua and Inokom. Since he was voted out of office in 2003, regulations on vehicle imports have been loosened and protection for national car companies, though still high, has been reduced.

Brands such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan have gained significant market share in this period with a combination of imports and local production although perhaps the biggest gains have been by the country's second national car company Perodua with Daihatsu as its strategic partner.

In his latest statement, Mahatir pointed out that "all vehicle-producing countries have restrictions in place, either through standards or through taxation, so we need to protect our infant industry".

He added his government may consider introducing "new domestic standards" as well as addressing directly key weaknesses with additional protection. 

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