Proton cars in Pakistan and Middle East next

By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Proton Holdings Bhd is keen to explore new export markets, namely Pakistan and the Middle East, as the national car company intends to boost sales volume beyond Malaysia under its aggressive turnaround plan.

Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong said the automaker will focus on the Middle Eastern market on par with the Asean region, as a strategy to strengthen its global presence.

“We are focusing on the Asean market, but we don’t want to forget the other markets. We will try our best to go there as well,” Li said at a collaboration signing ceremony between Proton’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) suppliers with foreign vendors.

Pakistan and the Middle East’s automotive segments sell about 215,000 and 1.8 million units a year respectively, according to business intelligence portal Statista.

Proton exported 1,388 cars last year, mainly to Asean, an increase from the 248 units recorded in 2017.

This year, Li said Proton targets to ship 3,000 cars to foreign countries.

On top of the existing export markets, Proton will be exporting cars to two new Middle Eastern countries: Egypt and Jordan.

Despite the brighter prospects for exports, the target of 3,000 is still a far cry from its glory years during the late 1990s with significant exports to more than 50 countries including the UK, Europe and Australasia.

International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming, who was present at the ceremony, said the government encourages local carmakers to expand their export markets in line with the country’s automotive blueprint.

“We will help all players to grow their markets, especially exports, in tandem with the national automotive policy,” he said.

Proton’s unofficial local sales volume stood at approximately 65,000 units last year, claiming the third spot in terms of market share behind Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd and Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

The national automaker is banking on its first-ever SUV, the Proton X70 which was launched in December, to drive sales and restore its brand image and credibility in the local automotive scene.

Meanwhile, the collaboration inked yesterday involved five vendors each from Malaysia and abroad, as well as two foreign direct investments.

The new collaboration also secured an initial investment of RM47 million into the country, in terms of facilities and technology.

Proton is currently expanding its manufacturing facility in Tanjung Malim, Perak, at a cost of RM1.2 billion to cater to the local production of the X70 and future models tied up with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd.

Geely owns 49.9% of Proton, while the majority 50.1% is controlled by DRB-Hicom Bhd.

The collaboration will pave way for local players to gain access to a larger international supply chain, including Geely’s ecosystem in China.

Malaysia has more than 500 automotive OEM vendors. The automotive parts and components’ exports were expected to hit RM12 billion in 2018, compared to RM11.8 billion in 2017. This figure is projected to hit RM15 billion by 2020.