National carmaker PROTON celebrated its 40th anniversary of incorporation today during a ceremony held at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur. The event also saw the launch of the company’s newest model, the Proton X90, which marks the brand entry into the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market.
PROTON had the honour of YAB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, to officially unveil the third X-series model in PROTON’s sports utility vehicle (SUV) line-up. Joining the Prime Minister at the event were YB Tuan Anthony Loke, the Minister of Transport, YB Senator Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Aziz, the Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry, and YB Tuan Chang Lih Kang, the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation.
Also present were H.E. Ouyang Yujing, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Malaysia and senior members of the Geely Group led by Eric Li Shufu, Chairman of Geely Holding Group, and Daniel Li Donghui, CEO of Geely Holding Group.
DRB-HICOM and PROTON meanwhile were represented by Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, Chairman of DRBHICOM, Dato’ Sri Syed Faisal, Chairman of PROTON, Dr Li Chunrong, CEO of PROTON and Roslan Abdullah, Deputy CEO of PROTON.
Moving into new market segments
On 7 May 1983 Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn. Bhd., better known as PROTON, was incorporated with the aim to help drive the industrialisation of Malaysia’s economy by establishing an ecosystem for the country’s fledgling automotive industry. Forty years and nearly 5 million cars later, the company is now venturing into new market segments that will drive the nation’s aspirations once again.
The launch of the Proton X90 not only adds a third model to the brand’s market leading range of SUVs, but it is also the company’s first new Energy Vehicle (NEV) offering. Driven by a power plant featuring the award winning 1.5-litre TGDi engine mated with a 48V electric motor synergy system, it promises to deliver reduced fuel consumption, lower emissions, improved performance, and a smoother driving experience.
“Today’s 40th anniversary celebration is a significant landmark moment for PROTON and is an opportunity for the company to briefly look back at the journey while also looking ahead to the future. Over the past four decades, PROTON’s contribution can be quantified not only by the number of sales achieved, but also by the number of engineers and professionals participated, jobs provided, value added to the ecosystem in the form of local purchases, and the overall uplifting of the economy because of our business activities.
“Going forward, our mission to provide mobility solutions to our customers while helping develop the nation’s automotive industry has not changed, but we will explore new segments that are aligned to the government’s aspirations and changing consumer demand as buyers start transitioning to NEVs. The Proton X90 is our first step towards executing this new strategy and there are many more products in the pipeline as PROTON looks to grow our presence in this exciting new market segment,” said Dato’ Sri Syed Faisal, Chairman of PROTON.
“PROTON and Geely have undergone six years of integration, with major changes made in terms of R&D, manufacturing, quality, procurement, and sales and marketing. This has led to growth in sales volume and market share for PROTON, leading to the company being ranked number two in Malaysia for four consecutive years and this has achieved the initial revival of the brand.
“As a close partner, Geely’s global innovation leadership, basic module framework, and electric and intelligent products are the keys to supporting PROTON’s future development. Over the coming years, Geely will continue to inject highvalue systems and the latest technology into PROTON to improve its systematic capabilities to achieve mutual benefits,” said Eric Li Shufu, Chairman of Geely Holding Group.
Leveraging on strong partnerships
PROTON’s partnership with Geely began in 2017, when Zhejiang Geely Holding Group acquired 49.9% of the company to become strategic partner with DRB-HICOM to drive the transformation of the national automaker. Since then, through a series of planned quality improvements, investments in new products, an infusion of talent and growth in the number of outlets, the company’s fortunes have been on the rise.
Following the launch of the PROTON X70 on 12 December 2018, sales have climbed from 64,744 units that year to 141,432 units in 2022, the best numbers achieved since 2013. The upward trend looks set to continue as sales for the first four months of 2023 closed at 49,702 units. Recent developments lend weight to the optimism.
The addition of the PROTON X90 gives PROTON a third SUV offering, allowing it to bolster its position as the leading SUV brand in Malaysia. Updates to other models are also due this year before the local market launch of the smart #1 in Q4, which will be the first offering from Proton New energy Technology (PRO-NET), the company’s new energy vehicle subsidiary.
Additionally, a visit to the Zeekr Intelligent Factory in Hangzhou Bay in April by the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, led to PROTON confirming its future NEV model plan following the signing of a Heads of Agreement (HOA) between DRB-HICOM and Geely that targets to attract RM32 billion in investment to develop the Automotive High Tech Valley (AHTV) in Tanjung Malim.
“The collaboration between PROTON and Geely has been transformative, which allowed us access to new models and technologies that would have taken too long and cost too much to develop and manufacture independently. It also infused the company with a sense of purpose and optimism following a lull in our fortunes, helping foster team spirit, and driving everyone at PROTON to reset their expectations.
“As the company enters the second half of its ten-year turnaround plan, we have a clear roadmap consisting of new product launches, an improved customer experience, industry leading after sales, and executing our NEV strategy that will hopefully lead to achieving our goals. By doing so, the success of this partnership will also allow PROTON to continue its role as a catalyst for developing Malaysia’s automotive ecosystem,” said Dr Li Chunrong, Chief Executive Officer, PROTON.