Volkswagen and ProtonThe friction between Volkswagen and Proton continues, but this time it's coming from Germany, not Malaysia. The two firms have talked about some sort of partnership, or VW buying Proton outright, intermittently going back to 2005. In 2007 a partnership was nixed after a year of talks, then in 2010 after more talks a partnership was nixed again. The landscape has changed since then, with Malaysian firm DRB-Hicom taking control Proton and buying out the Malaysian government's stake. Volkswagen is connected to DRB-Hicom, having established a partnership in late 2010 for DRB to assemble CKD kits of the Jetta and Passat for Malaysia.

VW's interest in Proton has been as an access point for getting its wares into Southeast Asia and getting more capacity overall. VW is said to be talking to DRB about a deeper tie-up with Proton, and one outlet has said that DRB is already including VW in its plans for integrating its control of Proton. Other outlets suggest that VW is interested in buying Proton outright but that the Malaysian government has doused that idea.

Someone else ready to hose down such a suggestion is Bernd Osterloh, the chief union representative on VW's 20-member supervisory board. Of the opinion that 12 brands are enough, Osterloh feels that the group needs to be stabilized after recent acquisitions like Porsche, Ducati and Scania before swallowing more. It isn't clear that Osterloh could stop the plan if VW wished to move ahead, but his is a noteworthy voice of dissent.