Time to let ego go

There is more honour in trying than not doing anything

Pic By TMR

I HAVE to admit, I am a car buff. I have always been chuffed with cars.

There is something gobsmacked amazing under the hood of a car that powers these four wheelers, keeps it nailed to the ground and roars on the road.

So, during my younger days, I would meddle with my first vehicle, a third-hand Proton Saga Aeroback.

I would change the plugs, flush the radiator, replace the air and oil filter, and when the engined misfired, clean the plugs or replace the contact point in the distributor. Back then the contact point goes for as cheap as RM5 for some of the older Japanese models.

I even caught a mechanic who intentionally yanked the cable of the alternator and came up with a baloney story that it was ruined and was not charging the car’s battery. I had to cough up RM800 for a replacement.

And there are still plenty of these cheats walking inside workshops.

The Mrs did not understand what’s the fuss all about cars. The wrenches, the tool box and all those oils, shampoos and polishers. Don’t think she does now, but I let it slide.

Today’s cars are more complex that you can’t even squeeze your hands between the block. Complex circulatories and sensors are the heart of these engineering marvels. In some models, you do not even have a dipstick to check your oil. Evolution has made cars complex creatures.

But the automobile remains one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It is an engineering feat and continues to be one. Cars had shaped modern human civilisation, similar to bullock carts to a farmer or water mills to manufacturers. But those inventions are less complex although no less amazing.

In 2017, 79 million cars were sold around the globe. If you arrange all these cars in a single file, it is 10 times the earth’s equator circumference or just short 68,400km the distance from the Earth to the moon. The value of the industry is estimated at US$2 trillion (RM8.24 trillion).

Each car has about 30,000 components from the engine, transmission and brake systems to the smallest screws and nuts. Putting all these components together, making sure they fit and work in one synchronise unit, like a pair of ice skaters vying for gold at the Winter Olympics.

The precision engineering, the measurement of curb weight against the performance, the horsepower to power the car from standstill to 100kph, the fuel consumption, the electronics that talk to every part and the platform that holds all these components into one. Then, there are the design, lights, drags, aerodynamics, sound proofing, ECUs (engine controls units), wiring, etc.

The advancement in building these cars has continued to evolve. The engine of a Formula One (F1) car alone has more than 6,000 parts and another about 8,500 parts for its electronics. The 1.6 litre engine (the same cubic centimetres) in let’s say a Proton, pushes these turbocharged F1 cars to top speed of around 340kph and reaches 100kph below two seconds.

Lotus’ latest model Evija, an all-electric hypercar, has nearly 2,000hp under the hood. It will get you from 0 to 60mph in less than three seconds — that is faster than the time you rush to the loo, unzip and pull down your pants to relieve yourself.

That is engineering.

Over the years, the country’s national automotive sector has had its fair share of its ups and downs. Some critics had a field day taking shots at the industry.

Proton has always been the obvious scapegoat. Even its recent success with the X70 has been called a farce as it was a rebadged of a car by Geely Auto Group. Other rebadged manufacturers get less criticism.

Interestingly, Proton seems to be of interest. They get bashed when they fail, lose money and require capital injection. They get the sticks when they are doing the right things, expanding, selling more cars and clocking improvements on qualities.

Some of the critics are based on facts. Others are mere wankers. Do Americans complain that the Apple iPhone is assembled in China and the components are sourced throughout Asia including Malaysia?

But let’s ignore all the complexities and nuances related to the car industry or even Proton. Let’s ignore the billions of taxes collected from the corporates, workers, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and dealers over the years. Let’s forget about the millions of jobs created and the value-chain that emerged from the industry.

Let’s ignore the dealers and workshop owners who spend millions to bet on the sector. Let’s discard the thousands of aspiring mechanics from Pusat Giat Mara who can land jobs faster than economics, business or legal studies students.

Let’s not be reminded about the local engineers who are picked to learn the assembling disciplines in Germany, Japan, France and China. Let’s not point out to the many automotive schools that have spruced up around the country.

Let’s forget all these economics, figures and business spillovers. Better still, let’s not build anything, or do anything and just sit by the wayside and watch the world passes us by.

It is time to let go of the “power window” monkey that is hinging on our back. There is more honour in trying than not doing anything. Sometimes, we just have to let go of the ghost of the past.

Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.