by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
PROTON Holdings Bhd’s highly anticipated new SUV, the X50, is expected to impact the sales volume of other models of different brands in the same class, including those in DRB-Hicom Bhd’s portfolio.
Proton Edar Sdn Bhd CEO Roslan Abdullah said the X50, the company’s first B-segment SUV, offers the latest technology with more affordable prices than other competing models that were introduced a few years ago, giving the model an added advantage.
He said the models that could be hit more by the X50 competition are likely of Japanese makers, compared to continental brands, as the latter is in a different market segment and is relatively small compared to other mass-market vehicles.
“Some of the models were introduced four to five years ago, while the X50 is coming with the latest technology. If we look from that perspective, of course, they should be affected, but at the moment, I cannot tell how much the impact would be because every brand has its own strength and loyal fans,” Roslan told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) at the X50 media preview in Sepang recently.
In the B-segment, he said customers will have a choice between the X50 from Proton and other cars from different brands.
He noted that pricing could be the most important factor that determines the local market.
“In selling cars, we touch the customers emotionally and sometimes, the most important factor for the Malaysian market is pricing. We are providing the product with an affordable price and higher technology,” he added.
DRB-Hicom, which holds a 50.1% stake in Proton while Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd has 49.9%, controls over 30% of the market share in the local automotive industry through a distributorship and/or jointly-controlled companies for Honda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Volkswagen, Audi and Tata commercial vehicles.
The group also assembles Mercedes-Benz cars in Pekan, Pahang.
The X50 sits in the same class as Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Volkswagen Tiguan, Audi Q2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA 200, among others.
Kenanga Research analyst Wan Mustaqim Wan Ab Aziz said HR-V and CX-3 would be among X50’s closest contenders.
He said Honda CR-V, BR-V and also the X50’s elder sibling, the X70, could be competing indirectly with the X50 despite them being seven-seaters.
“People who can afford to buy those SUVs in the B-segment may choose the X50. There is also an alternate choice between the X70 and X50,” Wan Mustaqim told TMR.
At the media preview, Roslan said the X50 is “capable of competing with some brands Proton is not normally competing with before” given its technological advance and affordability advantages.
As for DRB-Hicom, Wan Mustaqim concurred with Roslan that the X50 may have an impact on some of the other brands under the group, particularly for Honda models.
Proton had an estimated 16.7% of market share by the end of last year and clinched the No 2 position behind Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) and ahead of Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd in the third rank.
Proton closed 2019 at 100,821 units, up 55.7% from 2018 and the first time it crossed the 100,000 marks since 2015.
Perodua delivered a bigger volume from 227,243 units in 2018 to 240,341 units last year.
Honda saw sales decrease from 102,282 units in 2018 to 85,418 in 2019, but it retained the No 1 non-national carmaker post.
Wan Mustaqim said Honda sales for this year are expected to increase as a result of new launches.