KLANG: Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd (Proton) is aiming for a turnaround in its operations by the year 2020. It doesn’t see Perodua as a competitor moving forward, but Honda

“I think for me, I will be able to do it in three years. But if it is in two years, it will be very good. It will be by 2020. I don’t think the directors can wait if it is in 2021,” chief executive officer Li Chunrong said.

Li said that among the main tasks for the company was to improve Proton’s brand image among Malaysians.

“What is branding? It is an image, and how do we improve our image? I think there are two ways: first, product and secondly, service. If you have a good product and good service, then your brand will be well. For an improved brand name, it is not only through talk but by doing it right,” he said.

He believes the future products that will be launched by Proton will be good and the better service from the new service outlets will help to turn things around.

Speaking to reporters after the launch of the first bumiputra 3S outlet by Pantai Bharu Corp Sdn Bhd, Li cited Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s comments that the soon-to-be launched sport-utility vehicle (SUV) is of a very high quality.

Mahathir was a vocal opponent of Proton selling a 49.9% stake in the company to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd in May last year.

He was the mastermind behind the setting up of Proton in 1983 during his first stint as prime minister.

Proton was then a joint venture between the government and Mitsubishi.

Proton’s evolution over the years has meant that it, with the help of Geely, is trying to move its product up a notch from where it used to compete in.

Li said that in the near future, Proton would likely compete with the likes of Honda and Toyota instead and not see Perodua as its direct competitor anymore.

“Seriously, Perodua’s product range is entry level. Three months later (when the SUV is launched), our product would be a higher-end product. For now, Perodua is our competitor but in three months, it won’t be anymore because our products would be different,” he said.

“In the future, we will bring in products that are updated, new and equipped with the latest technologies. Not old products but new products that are available elsewhere will come here. We will launch (in Malaysia) at the same time as we launch them around the world,” he added.

He said Proton would launch its new SUV in October and that the carmaker is expecting the product to eventually claim the top spot in the Malaysian SUV market.

“For this new product, the direct competitor is the CR-V. In China, the Boyue consistently outsells the other Japanese marques,” he said.

Moving forward, Proton expects to launch even more products and Li has hinted that the company will make other Geely products available in Malaysia.

“We can guarantee we will launch one product every year. For new products, they will be launched at the same time that they are launched in the global markets,” he said.

“In the future, the new products can share the same platform and then they will be tailored to each country’s customer needs and demands to develop the necessary solutions,” he added.

He said the upcoming Proton SUV, which is based on the Geely Boyue SUV, would be tailored completely to suit Malaysia, noting that Proton has changed more than 20 components.

“We are also doing many tests on the SUV before it is launched and that is why we are late. We are now doing test drives on the Malaysian roads which are not complete yet. These are to test for local customer needs,” Li said.

Li, who was tight-lipped when asked about the pricing details of the new Proton SUV, said the price would be made known a day before the launch.

In its statement yesterday, Proton said it had recorded sales of more than 50% in June 2018 compared to the previous month with a market share of about 10%.

Sales of vehicles have been driven up mainly because of the goods and services tax which has been zerorised. The company said the Saga and Persona models led sales volume with an increase of 70% and 56%, respectively, from the previous month.

Meanwhile, Proton Edar Sdn Bhd CEO Abdul Rashid Musa said the upgrading of Proton service centres to 4S and 3S nationwide would enable the company to give better after-sales service to its customers.

“Cars are now more complicated with more features and computers fitted in. More so, we are now benchmarking our cars against the new standards from Geely that are derived from Volvo.

“So, it is not just Proton but we are now in a bigger family of Geely that also owns other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) like Volvo and London Taxi,” Rashid said.

“This way, Proton can raise its bar quicker and faster. So, it is a big jump for Proton in many ways,” he added. – thestaronline

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