By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
Proton Holdings Bhd became the country’s second top-selling carmaker in April for the first time since February 2016, driven by sales of the X70 and an overall improvement in brand image.
Last ranked second in the sales table 37 months ago, the national marque reclaimed the position last month with 7,011 units delivered, a 75% year-on-year (YoY) jump to signal that its turn around is well on track thus far.
Proton’s volume in April was also 14.1% higher than the previous month, bucking the market trend of slower sales, following a strong performance in March, according to a statement last Friday.
“Proton may maintain the No 2 position for the next couple of months, driven by the X70,” JF Apex Securities Bhd analyst Nursuhaiza Hashim told The Malaysian Reserve.
As of March 2019, Proton sold 18,281 cars, up 42% YoY from 12,843 units recorded in the same three-month period last year, according to data from the Malaysian Automotive Association.
For the X70, Proton said it has sold 11,133 units from more than 25,000 bookings.
The X70 is now a champion in the premium SUV category (C-segment) and the market leader in the executive SUV category (priced above RM100,000).
It remains the best-selling SUV in Malaysia this year with a 24% share of the overall segment.
In the longer term, Nursuhaiza said Proton may revive as more new models are rolled out from the new manufacturing plant in Tanjung Malim, Perak.
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd, which owns 49.9% of Proton along with DRB-Hicom Bhd at 50.1%, is planning to make the new facility as the production hub for its righthand drive markets regionally.
Proton chairman and DRB-Hicom group MD Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar previously said the X70’s completely knocked-down programme is on track to be produced at the new plant.
Apart from the X70, Proton noted that the Saga also contributed to the higher sales in April.
The Saga displaced the X70 as the best-selling Proton model with 3,047 units sold — the first time it breached the 3,000-unit barrier since August 2018 — during the three-month tax holiday period last year.
“Proton’s sales achievement in April is a testament that the company is moving in the right direction as Malaysian car buyers regain confidence in the brand and its products.
It also showcases the value of the Proton X70 at driving traffic to our showrooms, resulting in other models getting more attention as customers are reminded of the value, quality and safety of all Proton vehicles,” Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong said in the statement.
Li previously said the company is targeting sales of 90,000 units in 2019 and 400,000 units by 2027, based on its 10-year strategic turn around plan in becoming the largest original equipment manufacturer in Malaysia and the third-largest in South-East Asia in terms of market share.
He said Proton can achieve breakeven this year and is set to be profitable by 2020.
Regardless, Nursuhaiza said Proton’s revival may require three to four years more to be fully materialised.
For the next few months, Proton’s sales will be boosted by the recently launched facelifted Iriz and Persona.
The two facelifted models have collected 4,000 bookings prior to the launch.
Proton is expected to launch improved versions of the Exora and Saga later this year.
The company has 79 new 3S (sales, services and spare parts) and 4S (including body and paint) centres with a new corporate identity to uplift the brand image and improve aftersales service.
Proton is now leading in terms of the number of 3S/4S outlets for any automotive brand in Malaysia.