Newly elected Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said his office would explore opportunities to establish a new national car project in his country.

Mahathir made the statement at this week's 24th Nikkei Conference in Tokyo, Japan, adding that he no longer viewed Proton as a Malaysian national car company after a substantial stake was acquired by Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holdings Group (Geely).

Mahathir was responsible for the establishment of Malaysia's national car companies in the 1980s and 1990s, including Proton and Perodua, during his first term as prime minister which lasted 22 years until 2003.

Geely acquired a 49.9% stake in Proton Holdings from DRB-Hicom Bhd for MYR460m (US$115m) just under a year ago. The company plans to launch its first vehicle under the new shareholding structure in October, based on the newly-facelifted 1.8L Geely Boyue

Mahathir, now 92, said he planned to establish a new national car project in partnership with other foreign vehicle manufacturers, "perhaps in partnership with other countries in the region".

He added "we may have to depend on foreign partners in the beginning, but eventually we hope our people can master the technology themselves".