by AFIQ AZIZ
PROTON Holdings Bhd’s new model X70 has received more than 5,000 bookings in less than a week after its special media preview last Saturday.
Several Proton Edar Sdn Bhd dealers told The Malaysian Reserve that most of the customers are drawn to the technology and design of the five-seater SUV, which is rumoured to be priced between RM80,000 and RM130,00.
“Some of them are very confident that the price would be value for money. In fact, they had walked in and asked for the top-specification units, which would be equipped with the adaptive cruise control.
“This feature is quite expensive for other brands,” said the dealer.
The system, known as the Autonomous Cruise Control, will automatically adjust the speed of the completely built-up SUV to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead.
However, Proton has — via its official Facebook page — refuted the price list of the model’s four variants, which had been making its round on the Internet and mobile applications.
The dealer added that Proton will release the official number of bookings once it has reached 10,000 units, which is the company’s target volume at this stage.
Another dealer, who has agreed to upgrade his outlet from a 1S sales centre to a one-stop 3S (sales, service and spare parts) centre, said a more “elite” clientele had walked into his premises since the X70’s media preview.
“They are not our typical customers. The model has captured the market of other brands. This could make a difference for Proton as it has suffered from a trust deficit setback among the people,” the dealer said.
During the preview last week, Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong reiterated that the only way to bring Proton back on track is by producing a good product.
Proton had controlled more than 80% of the automotive market in early 2000 before the government decided to liberalise the industry and allowed foreign vehicles to be sold at a cheaper price via the National Automotive Policy.
Currently, the company has only gained about 15% of the entire market from the total of 27 carmakers, losing its market share to Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd and Honda Motor Co Ltd.
Li also said the company had decided to change its naming system to the alphanumeric approach, starting with the X70, to ensure that the market would only recognise and associate Proton as a brand with good products.
“We just want the people to remember the brand of Proton and not the name of its models,” he added.
As there is still hope for the brand to shine again, Proton distributors are looking forward to better treatment from financial institutions that used to be pretty “cold” when it comes to loan application approvals for its customers.
“We have seen some of the banks were reluctant to approve loans for Proton buyers, which might be due to the segment of our customers. These are mostly the first-hand buyers.
“Hopefully, things will be different after this,” the dealer said.