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Proton spreads its wings

Malaysian maker looks to make cars for the world

Published on February 13, 2008

Malaysia's largest auto-maker, Proton, is planning to launch a new model, the Persona, in Thailand this year.

This follows Proton's entry to the Thai market last year with three models: the Savvy, Satria Neo and Gen 2.

Proton Malaysia managing director Syed Zainal Abidin said the company had big plans for expansion in the future.

"We cannot make cars just for Malaysia any more. We have to make cars for the world. We want to be in every growing market, including Asean, China and India. All of our products will reach safety standards required in markets around the world," he said.

As well as making cars in Malaysia, Proton has a production facility in Iran.

At present, only 20 per cent of the vehicles produced by Proton are exported. But Abidin said the company was aiming to lift that figure to 50 per cent.

Importantly, he said Proton would not attempt to achieve this goal on its own. It is negotiating with foreign auto-makers, although he did not name any company.

"We know that we are limited in our capabilities and need help from a foreign auto-maker to successfully penetrate world markets," he said.

In the past, Proton has tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a deal with Volkswagen.

Another Malaysian auto-maker, Perodua, has forged an alliance with Toyota, which has benefited the company greatly.

In the past two months Proton has launched two new models - the Persona and a new-generation Waja - which shows it is desperate to regain the market share in Malaysia that it has recently lost to Perodua.

In 2007, Perodua had a share of 33 per cent while Proton had only 24.2 per cent. The auto market in Malaysia reached 487,000 units last year.

Proton's production capacity is 380,000 units per year, although less than half of it is being used.

There is sufficient space at its Tanjong Malim plant to increase production to nearly one million vehicles per year.

Vijo Varghese

The Nation

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