At the recent launch of the new Proton Perdana, the prime minister was crystal clear on Proton’s direction – the national carmaker must transform itself to be independent of government support and quickly find its footing to penetrate the global market.
Its newly-appointed chief executive officer and his deputy spent a humbling amount of time at the launch. They detailed the company’s new philosophy, seen immediately in Proton’s new model, and promised a shift towards global mindsets, from its design thinking down to customer experience years after the purchase of Proton’s models.
The long-awaited model spurred a mixed reaction from the public and media, focusing on the company’s price positioning, as well as its future business strategy, given that Proton has again received assistace from the government.
To assess Proton’s future, it is important to objectively analyse recent initiatives while learning from past shortfalls of a carmaker that rose despite the challenges faced since its inception, in a country which at that time, only excelled at agriculture and mining.
The most noteworthy start of Proton’s transformation plan involves the launch of a D-segment model. As we know, this is a very challenging segment, confronting a customer base with quality expectations that surpass its selling price. This is a strong message that Proton is willing to wade stiffer challenges instead of resting in its current position.
Further demonstrating its transformation, Proton broke its destructive tradition of building its own platform and intelligently partnered with a global player to deliver a proven foundation to its newest model line-up.
They added value by redesigning the top hat and extended the car’s body to deliver the longest car in its class. Proton’s engineers also added new front and rear lamps, navigation systems and redesigned the trunk to allow more space.
The D-segment’s biggest challenge is production volume. Despite an annual production forecast of about 7000 units, the Perdana was priced lower than other cars in its class, using about 60 percent local components. Profitability was maintained through the re-engineering of Proton’s production processes, which included the introduction of hydraulic presses to stamp its body panels.
Proton expects to launch two other new models this year in order to remain competitive in the lower market segments. It has also initiated the development of new energy-efficient engines, allowing further enhancements to its current product line-up.
At the same time, the customer can expect a better after-sales experience. Proton has committed to further enhancement of its vast network of dealers and service centres. Consumers can now visit its website to find many new initiatives Proton is providing, including pick & delivery, mobile assistance and online service bookings.
The recent developments in Proton, in particular its approach towards the development of the new Perdana, signify transformative steps for our national carmaker to wade through the ever challenging global automotive market. It has began establishing strategic collaborations, building safe, reliable yet cost-effective products, and is working hard to regain brand trust from customers.
At the end of the day, consumers are not concerned with production volume, quality data or technical alliances. As long as Proton takes the right steps to deliver reliable, safe and competitively priced products, it will secure its future.
All eyes are on Proton and I hope this year’s Ramadhan will be remembered as the turning point for Proton to achieve global competitiveness.