Proton looking for right time to enter EV market

by RAHIMI YUNUS / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

PROTON Holdings Bhd is carrying out a feasibility study on the right electric vehicles (EVs) that could be introduced in Malaysia and the right timing while awaiting clarity on the country’s direction in the segment.

Proton Edar Sdn Bhd CEO Roslan Abdullah said Proton could launch the EV technology, but other factors are being taken into account such as pricing, consumers’ affordability, after-sales, customer experience and regulations.

“We could bring the technology, but the question is what would happen to after-sales in the next five years? We are not looking at selling the product alone but throughout the customer experience of owning an EV car as well.

“How many consumers could afford an EV? In Malaysia, a part of the forces in sales is price affordability. If we have to bring down the price level, would it meet certain regulations later on, if any? These are key points we are looking at in determining to bring EVs. We (need to) look for the right product and the right time,” Roslan said in a virtual interview recently.

He said the company will focus on assessing the EV product at present before thinking about the business model and how the carmaker can benefit the consumers and other stakeholders.

Malaysia is arguably viewed as a laggard in the EV race in SouthEast Asia, behind Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

Maybank Investment Bank Bhd (Maybank IB) said establishing an essential public charging network is a strategic first step, but this remains a challenge in Malaysia, which has 421 charging points as at March 2021 with targets to increase the amount to 125,000 by 2030.

Maybank IB associate research director Liaw Thong Jung said Malaysia’s Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint 2021-2030 has many positives, but the EV policy is skewed towards plug-in hybrid EVs and not battery EVs.

He said it defeats the purpose of scaling up the nationwide EV infrastructure and decarbonisation plan.

Maybank IB expects EVs to outsell internal combustion engine vehicles in Asean from 2035, with EV penetration expected to grow five times to 20% by 2025.

On a separate matter, Roslan said consumer sentiment remains stable as supported by sales tax exemption under the short-term National Economic Recovery Plan, or Penjana.

He said the situation remained to be evaluated after June when the tax incentive extension ends.

Roslan also said the carmaker is monitoring the global chip supply shortage issue with its vendors and supply chain.

He said the company’s production is unaffected at present and its chip supply could sustain until the next two to three months.

On spare parts, he said Proton has stocked up inventories particularly fast-moving parts for normal service schedule at service centres, while a certain lead time is expected for accidental parts.

For the first quarter (1Q) of 2021, Proton achieved a vehicle sales cumulative total of 32,826 units — its highest quarterly market share figure since March 2012.

Its market share for the quarter stood at 23.6%.

The Proton Saga was the best-selling model, followed by the Proton X50 after only five months of sales.

Roslan said the carmaker expects sales to remain strong as production catches up to demand in 2Q.

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