Proton Holdings

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Proton Holdings Berhad
PROTON
Subsidiary
Industry Automotive
Founded 7 May 1983 (33 years ago)
Founder Mahathir Mohamad
Headquarters Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
Area served
Southeast Asia, Australia, United Kingdom, Turkey, Middle East, Chile
Key people
Ahmad Fuaad CEO
Products Cars, car parts
Number of employees
12,000
Parent DRB-HICOM
Slogan "It's in the Drive!"
Website www.proton.com.my

Proton Holdings Berhad, commonly known as Proton and stylised PROTON is a Malaysia-based corporation active in automobile design, manufacturing, distribution and sales. Proton was established in 1983 as the sole national badged car company until the advent of Perodua in 1993. The company is headquartered in Shah Alam, Selangor, and operates additional facilities at Proton City, Perak. Proton is a Malay acronym for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional (National Automobile Company).

Proton was originally a manufacturer of rebadged Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) products in the 1980s and 1990s. Since the 2000s, Proton has produced several locally engineered models, and the company is presently Southeast Asia's sole automobile company with full R&D capabilities. Proton cars are currently sold in at least 10 countries, the majority of which are in Asia.

Proton was originally owned in majority by HICOM, with minority stakes being held by Mitsubishi Group members. By 2005, Mitsubishi had divested their stake in Proton to Khazanah Nasional, and in 2012, Proton was fully acquired by DRB-HICOM. Proton has been the owner of Lotus Cars since 1996.

Proton, predominantly reliant on its domestic market, is presently undergoing a transformation process as part of a long-term turnaround plan, with hopes of returning to profitability and regaining an international presence.

History[edit]

1980s[edit]

The original Proton Saga. More than 1.2 million units were sold between 1985 and 2008.[1]

The concept of a National Car was conceived in 1979 by Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia with the goal of enhancing Malaysian industry.[2] The National Car Project was approved by the Cabinet in 1982, leading to the founding of Proton on 7 May 1983. It was wholly owned by the government of Malaysia through Khazanah Nasional at its creation. It was headed by its founder, Dr. Mahathir.

Proton approached Mitsubishi Motors between 1983 and 1984 and brokered a joint venture between both companies for the production of the first Malaysian car. The result of the collaboration was the Proton Saga, which launched on 9 July 1985.[3] It was based on the second generation 1983 Mitsubishi Lancer Fiore 4-door saloon and powered by a 1.3-litre Mitsubishi Orion 4G13 engine. The first Proton Saga to roll off the production line in Shah Alam is preserved in the Muzium Negara as a symbol of the beginning of the Malaysian automotive industry. Sales of the new Saga outstripped supply and Proton struggled to meet the growing demand, but by mid-1986 it had captured a 64% majority domestic market share in the Below 1600cc segment.[4] Later in October 1987, a hatchback variant called the Proton Saga Aeroback was launched and featured a more powerful 1.5L Mitsubishi 4G15 engine and a redesigned rear-end. Proton entered the United Kingdom in March 1989 with the Saga saloon and hatchback duo, where the Malaysian company set the record for the "Fastest Selling Make of New Car Ever to Enter the United Kingdom".[5] Proton's sales declined during the late 1980s as a result of the worldwide economic recession, and the lack of technical expertise in Proton's management.[6] Kenji Iwabuchi, a former Mitsubishi Motors executive, was appointed as the managing director of Proton in 1988.[7] In the decade that followed, there were significant developments both domestically and globally.

1990s[edit]

Proton Saga Iswara saloon, widely used as Malaysian taxis in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Proton Wira saloon. Over 952,216 units were sold in around 65 countries worldwide.[8]
Proton Perdana, the largest and most luxurious Proton saloon car.

On 15 August 1992, the Proton Saga Iswara was launched. It shares the older Mitsubishi platform used in the original Proton Saga, but its exterior and interior styling are unique to Proton. The Saga Iswara was widely used as taxicabs in Malaysia during the 1990s and 2000s, and many continue in service. On 21 May 1993 the Proton Wira was introduced, a car which was better equipped and larger than the Saga and Saga Iswara. The Wira is based on the fourth-generation 1991 Mitsubishi Lancer and was sold in a four-door saloon guise at launch. The Proton Wira Aeroback, a five-door hatchback variant featuring a Proton-designed rear-end joined the range in 1994. The Wira saloon and hatchback shared six different engines by 1996, all of which were sourced from Mitsubishi Motors. The engines included the 4G13 1.3L and 4G15 1.5L carried over from the Proton Saga, the newer 4G92 1.6L, 4G93 SOHC and DOHC 1.8L and the 4D68 2.0L diesel. The Wira was the first Proton car to be produced in right-hand drive (RHD) and left-hand drive (LHD) configurations, and remains the only Proton car made available with a diesel engine.[9]

In 1995, Proton launched the three-door Proton Satria hatchback and the two-door Proton Putra coupé, both of which are based on the Wira platform and powered by the same range of Mitsubishi engines offered in the Wira, with the exception of the 2.0L diesel. The Proton Wira saloon and hatchback, and the Proton Satria and Putra were aggressively exported and marketed across the European Union and Middle East during the 1990s. The Proton Perdana, a premium D-segment saloon, was launched in 1995. It is based on the seventh generation 1992 Mitsubishi Eterna and was fitted with Mitsubishi's 4G63 2.0-litre l4 engine. It was offered with the superior 177bhp 6A12 DOHC 2.0L V6 engine after 1999. The Perdana remains the only D-segment, V6-powered car to be commercially produced by Proton. A Citroën AX-based 1.1-litre five-door supermini called the Proton Tiara debuted in 1996. It was the result of a joint venture between Proton and PSA Peugeot Citroën, a collaboration which was later abandoned after the death of Proton's then CEO, Tan Yahaya Ahmad in 1997.

On 30 October 1996, Proton acquired an 80% stake in the British company, Lotus Group International Limited, valued at £51 million.[10] The controlling interest was purchased from A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, then also the owner of Bugatti. Proton's stake in Lotus was increased to 100% in 2003.[11] Lotus has been involved in the development of suspension and handling elements of all Proton cars launched since 1996. The Proton Satria GTi, widely regarded as the best Malaysian car ever produced, owes much of its success to Lotus' contributions.[12]

2000s[edit]

Proton Waja, the first indigenously designed Proton car.
Proton Gen-2, the first model to be offered with Proton's CamPro engine.

The Proton Waja, the company's first indigenously designed model, was launched in August 2000. It set in stone Proton's new direction in business and marked the end of Proton's extensive reliance on other car manufacturers for vehicle platforms and parts. However, the Waja lagged behind its main competitors and failed to gain the support of customers in the domestic market. The Waja also marked the downfall of the Proton marque, and inadvertently lead to the rise of Perodua, the second Malaysian vehicle manufacturer. In 2002, Proton introduced the Jumbuck, a ute based on the Proton Wira platform and thus far the only Proton model to enjoy significantly more popularity in its export markets (specifically Australia) than domestically. The Proton Gen-2 was launched in late 2004. It was the first Proton car equipped with the Malaysian-made Campro engine.

The advanced RM1.8 billion (USD$580 million) Proton Tanjung Malim manufacturing plant in the Malaysian state of Perak commenced operation in November 2003.[13] The new plant had been projected to open in August 1998, but it was deferred due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.[14] However, it was revived in 2001 and completed in late 2003 instead.[15][16] The new 1,280 acre plant was also developed as part of the Proton City project, which would span 4,000 acres of land in Tanjung Malim and consist of residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and recreational areas.[17] The plant has an annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, but could be expanded to 1 million units in the future. The Proton Tanjung Malim plant complements the original Proton plant in operation since 1985, located in Shah Alam, Selangor.[18] Despite a combined production capacity of around 350,000 units, both plants are underutilised with just 52,235 and 114,645 units produced at the Tanjung Malim and Shah Alam plants in 2011 respectively.[17]

On 7 July 2004, Proton purchased a 57.57% stake in MV Agusta S.p.A of Italy, valued at €70 million. Proton failed to reverse the misfortunes of MV Agusta and sold the marque to Gevi S.p.A in December 2005 for €1, with Gevi assuming the €139.44 million debt carried over from MV Agusta.[19]

Proton Satria Neo, the company's sportiest offering.
Proton Persona, the successor to the Proton Wira saloon.

The latter half of the 2000s marked Proton's comeback in the domestic market, which was then dominated by newer and better Toyota-based models from Perodua. On 15 August 2007, Proton launched the Persona saloon, the long overdue replacement for the best-selling Proton Wira saloon. The Persona was based on an extended version of the 2004 Proton Gen-2 hatchback platform and shared most of its external appearance, albeit priced around RM10,000 less with large overall improvements in terms of ergonomics and functionality.[20] Despite the similarities with the Gen-2, the Persona was an instant hit in Malaysia, with 19,840 units sold in the first three months following its launch.[21] The much anticipated second generation Proton Saga was launched on 18 January 2008.[22] Previously, the first generation Proton Saga was Proton's first and most successful model, having a 23-year-long lifespan, the longest of all Proton models to date. The new Saga maintained its legacy, and turned out to be a great sales success for Proton with over 23,000 bookings in under two weeks since launch.[23] It is consistently ranked as Proton's best-selling product in terms of annual sales volume, placing 3rd in 2008, and 2nd between 2009 and 2012 in the Malaysian market, beaten only by its arch rival, the Perodua MyVi.[24][25][26] Proton made history again when it introduced the Exora, Malaysia's first 7-seater MPV on 15 April 2009.[27] It was based on Proton's next generation P2 platform and satisfied the demand for budget 7-seaters in the domestic market, which had been monopolised by the Toyota Avanza and Nissan Grand Livina. It has since been consistently positioned in the Top 10 best-selling vehicles in Malaysia.[24][25][26] The Proton Exora, Persona and Saga marked the rise of a new Proton after almost a decade of declining sales and loss in its domestic market. By 2016 Proton UK appear to have closed their headquarters at Crowley Way, Bristol BS11 9YR & although their web site is still live there have been no updates since March 2012 and the the free phone telephone number 0800 7810777 is no longer connected. The web site is still advertising the Savvy, Gen2 and other models which are no longer in production. It looks as though Proton have quit the UK.

2010s[edit]

Proton Exora, Malaysia's first 7-seat MPV.
The second generation Proton Saga, the company's flagship offering.

In December 2008, Proton resumed product collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors.[28] Under the agreement, Proton gained the rights to rebadge the 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer to be sold exclusively in the Malaysian market. The result of the collaboration was the Proton Inspira, which launched on 10 November 2010. It also marked a return to closer ties between Proton and Mitsubishi, the Japanese company which was instrumental in Proton's foundation in the 1980s.[29] Proton showcased the EMAS concept hybrid city cars at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show.[30] They were designed by Italdesign Giugiaro and related to the Lotus Ethos, a similar concept car from Proton's British subsidiary.

Proton Prevé, Malaysia's first 5-Star ANCAP safety rated car.

The long-awaited turbocharged inline-four petrol engine from Proton was revealed at the 2010 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show.[31] Officially known as the 1.6L CamPro CFE, it is capable of producing power and torque figures of 138 bhp (103 kW) at 5,000 rpm and 205 N·m at 2,000–4,000 rpm respectively, comparable to a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine, while achieving better fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse emissions.[32]

In January 2012, Proton was acquired by DRB-HICOM, a Malaysian conglomerate in a transaction between Khazanah Nasional and DRB-HICOM which totalled RM1.2 billion.[33] The Proton Prevé, the company's latest saloon car was unveiled on 16 April 2012.[34][35] It became the first Proton car, and to an extent, the first Malaysian car to be awarded the full 5-star safety rating in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) of Australia and New Zealand.[36] In December 2012, Proton acquired all of Petronas' E01 engine technologies in addition to associated technology patents at a cost of RM63 million.[37] The deal encompassed a family of naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2-litre engines to complement Proton's own CamPro 1.3L N/A, 1.6L N/A and 1.6L turbo engines.

On 17 August 2013, Proton launched the Suprima S, the hatchback complement to the Prevé saloon.[38] It became the second 5-star ANCAP rated Proton and the first to offer extensive standard safety features in its domestic market. On 11 December 2013, the second generation Proton Perdana was finally unveiled after a three-year gap in the nameplate's production.[39] The new Perdana is a badge engineered eighth generation Honda Accord and is for exclusive sale to Malaysian civil servants and government officials.[39]

The Proton Iriz was unveiled on 25 September 2014 as the company's first B-segment 5-door hatchback.[40] The Iriz will compete with the Perodua Myvi in its domestic market, and not with the similar but smaller A-segment Perodua Axia, which was launched 10 days prior to the Iriz.

On December 3, 2014, Proton announced plans to construct a new car factory in Bangladesh.[41] A deal was made public on February 6, 2015 between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta to help the latter develop the way for their own national car.[42][43] There are allegations that President Jokowi Widodo is appointing Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono as the representative of PT Adiperkasa Citra Lestari, who was known to be associated with ex-President Megawati Soekarnoputri.[44]

Vehicle line-up[edit]

Logo and branding[edit]

2008–2016 logo.
1985–2000 Malaysian market logo.

The Proton logo in 1983 was a dark blue shield which encompassed a yellow crescent positioned below a yellow fourteen-pointed star, in reference to the Malaysian flag and coat of arms.[45] However, this emblem was only used for Proton cars which were sold domestically. Proton cars exported to other markets received different badge designs. In 2000, the new Proton logo was used on the Proton Waja which launched in that year.[45] It featured a stylised yellow tiger head on a green roundel embossed upon a dark blue shield, with the Proton name in yellow capital letters in Frutiger font. The standard text representation of the Proton name was also changed from the lowercase italic text "proton" to the uppercase "PROTON". All Proton cars manufactured after 2000 carried the new badge, both in the domestic and export markets. The current Proton logo, which was in use since 2008 with the introduction of the second generation Proton Saga is identical to the 2000 badge, but manufactured in a two-tone, silver and black design instead.[45]

Domestic sales[edit]

Proton's sales grew at a stable rate in the first decade, but plunged in 1998 due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Nonetheless, Proton bounced back and recorded its highest sales volume in 2002 at 214,373 units. Sales gradually decreased in the following five years due to cheaper and more competitive offerings from Perodua. Proton's sales have recovered slightly since 2008, but their market share is in a current state of decline. Proton has sold over 3,500,000 cars in Malaysia between 1985 and 2013.

The first Proton, the Saga saloon launched in July 1985 amid positive reception, but poor sales due to Proton's inability to meet the high demand.[4] However, Proton later captured a 47% Malaysian market share in the following year, with 24,148 cars sold. The company's market share later grew to 65% in 1987; 85% in the Under 1,600cc segment.[46] Proton maintained a majority market share in the following years, which peaked in 1993 at 74% with over 94,100 units sold.[47] Car sales in Malaysia plunged from 404,000 units in 1997 to 163,851 in 1998 due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.[48] Proton's revenue and profits were severely affected, but a majority market share was still maintained into the early 2000s.[49]

In the mid-2000s, Proton's revenues and sales declined sharply. In 2006, Proton's market share was 32%, down from 40% in 2005.[50] Proton lost its majority domestic market share for the first time in 20 years to Perodua, the second Malaysian car manufacturer. Factors which contributed to the fall of Proton included the revision of the National Automotive Policy (NAP), Proton's newer indigenously designed models (i.e., the Proton Waja, Gen-2 and Savvy) which were poorly designed and manufactured compared to the former Mitsubishi-based Protons and stronger competitors, specifically Perodua with their best-selling Myvi which launched in 2005.[51] Proton's total sales volume and its market share failed to recover to its pre-2002 figures and Perodua remained the domestic market leader from 2006 onwards.

A comparison of Proton & Perodua sales in the domestic market. Perodua, which started out in 1994 as a complement and not a competitor to Proton has overtaken the latter to become Malaysia's best selling car manufacturer. Perodua cars manage to sell in greater numbers due to their cheaper pricing range, in which there are few competitors, as well as their inheritance of generally better designs from their parent company, Toyota.

Sales of Proton cars grew at a stable rate in the latter half of the 2000s and in the early 2010s. The company briefly regained the top-spot from Perodua in June 2009, after the introduction of the Proton Exora MPV.[52] Proton also matched Perodua's market share in the first quarter of 2011.[53] Factors which contributed to the rise of Proton were well-designed cars which catered to the needs of the domestic market (i.e., the Proton Persona, second generation Saga and Exora) in addition to better management of the company under the then managing director, Syed Zainal Abidin. However, despite the improvements made between 2007 and 2012 in addition to improved overall sales, Proton's Malaysian market share continued to decrease. In 2011, the company had a 26.4% (158,657 units) share which plummeted further to 22.5% (141,121 units) in 2012.[54] In comparison, Perodua retained a majority market share of 30.1% (189,137 units) in 2012, with Toyota maintaining its third place at a 16.8% share with 105,151 units sold.

Proton's decline in market share has stabilised as of 2013. In the first-half of last year, Proton sold 64,782 cars, representing 20.7% of the market share, a decline of 1.8% over its full-year 2012 share.[55] However, by the end of 2013, Proton had managed to raise its market share to 21.2% with a total of 138,753 units sold.[56] Nonetheless, Proton's market share has still declined by an overall 1.3% between 2012 and 2013. In July 2013, Proton sold around 16,600 cars, which accounted for 25% in market share during that specific month, the company's highest ever in 2013.[57] Perodua on the other hand sold around 19,200 or 2,600 more cars than Proton in July 2013. The rise in Proton's sales were attributed to the launch of the Proton Saga SV, a cheaper variant of the second best-selling car in Malaysia.

Another factor which continues to play a significant role in the sales of Proton cars is the National Automotive Policy (NAP), enforced by the Malaysian government in the interests of Proton, Perodua, Naza and foreign brands with manufacturing plants in Malaysia.[58] Under the NAP, imported vehicles are subjected to varying degrees of import and excise duties depending on the vehicle's origin of manufacture and engine displacement, with excise duty imposed at 60 to 105 percent being the highest component in the duty structure. Vehicles imported from members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, such as Thailand and Indonesia, are subject to the least import duties, whereas those from Europe suffer the worst.[58] However, imported hybrid vehicles and cars purchased in duty-free Langkawi are exempted from the import and excise duties. The NAP ensures the survival of Proton and other Malaysian-made vehicles under a biased playing field in the Malaysian market. Nonetheless, the import duties of the NAP have been progressively revised and reduced in line with the eventual liberation of the market, but excise duties, the larger component of tariffs, continues to be high and opaquely applied, with non-tariff barriers effectively reducing the rate for Malaysian made vehicles.[59] In March 2013, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Malaysia) announced that vehicles manufactured in Australia and Japan will face a gradual reduction of import duties in stages to zero by 2016.[60] Proton however responded positively to the announcement, citing their recent positive developments such as the 5-star ANCAP safety recognition of the Proton Prevé as part of its commitment to progress.[61]

Global operations[edit]

Countries and territories where Proton cars are/were sold.

Proton relies primarily on its domestic market for the majority of its sales and revenues. Nonetheless, small volumes of Proton cars are also exported to various other countries in Asia, in addition to the United Kingdom and Australia. The company held a far larger global sales network in the 1990s, spanning all six continents and over 70 countries, but intends to regain a global foothold with 500,000 annual sales by 2018.[62][63]

Proton first ventured into export markets in December 1986, a year and a half after the launch of the company's first car, the Saga.[64] It was only sold in right-hand drive markets like New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Singapore because left-hand drive variants were not produced. Proton attempted to enter the American market in November 1988, but failed to meet strict US automotive regulations.[65] However, the Proton Wira, which launched in 1993 became the company's first car to be produced in both left and right-hand drive configurations, paving the way for Proton's entry into Continental Europe in October 1994 and other markets in the Middle East and Latin America.[9][66][67] The company's global sales network peaked between 1994 and the early 2000s, but has since dwindled to around 25 countries as of the 2010s. Proton has commissioned CKD plants in Iran, Indonesia, The Philippines, Vietnam, and China.

A Proton Impian police car belonging to the Humberside Police, United Kingdom.
A Proton Wira taxi in Pyongyang, North Korea. The Malaysian government has gifted Proton cars to other, less developed countries as a sign of goodwill and diplomacy.
Proton cumulative sales volume in selected markets
Country Cars sold Time frame References
Malaysia Malaysia 3,760,000 07 / 1985 – 2015 [68][69][70]
 Total exported 400,000 12 / 1986 – 2015 [N 1][71][70]
United Kingdom United Kingdom 141,209 03 / 1989 – 2015 [72][73][74]
Australia Australia 34,985 05 / 1995 – 2015 [75][76][77][74]
Singapore Singapore 23,951 10 / 1989 – 2013 [75][78]
Thailand Thailand 19,188 12 / 2007 – 2012 [75][79]
Germany Germany 15,479 03 / 1995 – 09 / 1999 [67][80]
Proton cars were first exported to the United Kingdom in 1989, and later Australia in 1995. British Proton sales peaked at 14,957 units in 1992, above rivals such as Hyundai (9,337), Kia (3,519), Škoda (9,365), SEAT (8,198), Lada (11,907) and even Mitsubishi (11,077).[81] Proton's best performance in Australia was in 1998, with 3,182 units sold. Since the late 90s, sales in the U.K have decreased significantly.

Proton exported 164,153 cars between December 1986 and December 1997.[82] The United Kingdom is by far the company's most successful export market in terms of cumulative sales volume, and at one point Proton set the record for Fastest Selling Make of New Car Ever to Enter the United Kingdom.[5] In 1992, the Saga was ranked among the Top 20 best-selling cars in the UK, outselling its primary competitors from Hyundai and SEAT.[83][84]

Additionally, a 1999 survey by the United Kingdom Consumers' Association ranked Proton as among the most reliable and recommended in Britain.[85] The response from 27,000 members of the association revealed that Proton was third ranked third in terms of fewer breakdowns, faults and other mechanical problems, placing Proton behind Honda and Mazda, and ahead of Toyota and Ford.[85] Furthermore, 80% of the surveyed Consumers' Association members said they would recommend Proton cars to friends and family, compared to 90% for Subaru, 79% for Toyota, 78% for Honda and Mitsubishi, 63% for Hyundai and 47% for Rover respectively.[85] The 1999 award is Proton's second consecutive, having received similar appraisal in 1998.[85]

However, sales in the UK have since collapsed, with just 208 Protons sold in 2012.[86] Proton cars were once popular in Singapore, at one time the company's second-largest export destination despite its relatively small market size.[87] Sales were also modest in Germany and Belgium during the late 90s, prior to Proton's withdrawal from Continental Europe.[88] Kuwait was once a top Middle Eastern export destination for Proton cars in the late 90s and early 2000s, with an average market share of 8% or 1,000 units sold each year, ten times greater than any other Gulf Cooperation Council state.[89] The Kuwaiti dealer, Bahrah Trading Company had focused on the niche fleet market, selling Proton Wiras to fast food delivery services and taxi operators.[89]

By the first-half of the 2010s, the Chinese market had become the largest contributor to Proton's export revenues. Although Proton cars sold in China carried different names and badges under the local Youngman EuropeStar brand, Proton nonetheless received royalties for the use of their platforms and Campro engines.[90] Proton's six-year contract with Youngman expired in 2012, but the Zhejiang-based company continued to unofficially produce Proton's cars and engines up until early 2015.[91] In February 2015, Proton announced that they would revive their joint venture with Fujian-based Goldstar, and would not renew their contract with Youngman.[92][93]

Proton Cars UK is mounting a comeback with the launch of more than three new models (Prevé, Suprima S, Exora & GSC) between Q4 2013 and Q1 2014.[63][94] Proton also has intentions to return to Latin America, and following the ratification of the Malaysia-Chile Free Trade Agreement, the company announced plans to re-enter Chile as early as 2013, after their withdrawal in the early 2000s.[95][96] In July 2015, Proton signed a distributor agreement with Andes Motor, and the first left-hand drive Prevé and Exora evaluation units were shipped to Chile in November.[97][98] On 1 March 2016, Proton commenced the first official shipment of 50 Prevé units, the first of an anticipated 1,000 Chilean bound Protons this year.[98][97] The official re-launch of Proton in Chile has been tentatively pegged at May 2016.[97]

Partnerships[edit]

Mitsubishi[edit]

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) were instrumental in the foundation of Proton. The large majority of vehicle platforms, engines, parts and technical expertise were once sourced from Mitsubishi Motors. Additionally, the managing director of Proton between 1988 and 1993 was Kenji Iwabuchi, a former Mitsubishi Motors executive.[7] Proton's staff were also trained by Mitsubishi in Japan as part of a bilateral agreement. Management of Proton was gradually assumed by Malaysians in the 1990s.[6] All Proton cars launched between 1985 and 2000 with the exception of the Proton Tiara were based on Mitsubishi vehicles. Proton began producing indigenously designed models after 2000, but resumed product collaboration with MMC in 2008.[28] The result of the renewed collaboration is the Proton Inspira, a rebadged 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer for sale exclusively in the Malaysian market. It marked a return to closer ties between Proton and MMC.[29]

MMC and MC each held a minority 30% joint stake in Proton, while a majority 70% stake was held by the Heavy Industries Corporation of Malaysia (HICOM).[99] The Mitsubishi joint stake was later reduced to 15.86%, or 7.93% each for MMC and MC respectively until it was fully sold to Khazanah Nasional in January 2005.[100] Mitsubishi Motors, Japan's sole unprofitable carmaker of that period sold its 7.93% Proton stake earlier in March 2004 in an effort to reduce its ¥1.14 trillion (USD$11 billion) debt.[100] The sale of Mitsubishi's joint stake in Proton marked the end of its 22-year investment in Proton. Nonetheless, the Proton Inspira serves as a symbol of the strong historical relationship between Proton and Mitsubishi Motors, or to a larger extent Malaysia and Japan.

Citroën[edit]

In 1994, French car manufacturer Citroën announced plans for the production of diesel-powered cars in Malaysia under a joint venture with Proton.[101] Proton's then CEO, Tan Yahaya Ahmad also advocated an alliance with PSA Peugeot Citroën for the purpose of technology transfer. Negotiations dragged on until 1995, but materialised in 1996 with the launch of the Proton Tiara.[102] It was based on the Citroën AX and powered by a 1.1L Citroën l4 petrol engine, in contrast to the plans for a diesel option. The joint venture between Proton and Citroën stagnated after the death of Yahaya Ahmad in a helicopter crash the following year. The Proton Tiara failed to compete against its rivals from Perodua and production ended in 2000, four years after its launch.

Youngman[edit]

Proton entered the People's Republic of China in 2007 under a strategic joint venture with China Youngman Automobile Group Co., Ltd. The agreement involved a minimum of 30,000 Proton Gen-2 CBU units which were rebadged in China under Youngman's Europestar marque.[103][104] In 2008, the Proton Persona became the second model to be sold under the Europestar brand.[105] The Gen-2 and Persona were known as the RCR (short for RaCeR or Racing) and Jing Yue between 2007 and late 2009, but both cars were facelifted and renamed as the L3 5-door and L3 4-door (or L3 Sedan) for the 2010 model year respectively. Both models received unique parts and facelifts from Youngman between 2007 and 2013. The most recent facelifts of the Europestar L3 GT 5-door (Proton Gen-2) and Europestar L3 GT 4-door (Proton Persona) offer new front bumpers, unique grilles and mirror-mounted turn signals on the exterior, in addition to a redesigned climate control cluster and leather upholstery on the interior.[106][107][108] Youngman has also introduced less expensive variants of their L3 hatchback and saloon models, powered by the tried and tested 1.5-litre Mitsubishi 4G15M engine.[109][110]

Youngman unveiled the Europestar L5 hatchback and saloon models at the 2011 Shanghai Motorshow. The exterior design and interior equipment are indigenous to Youngman, but both cars are based on an extended Proton GEN-2 platform (2,670mm, 70mm longer than the original) and powered by Proton's CamPro CPS 1.6-litre engine.[111] The Europestar T5 was previewed on 23 April 2012, a SUV designed by Lotus and Youngman and based on the Proton Gen-2 platform.[112] It was scheduled for a late 2012 launch but it was never put into production.[91]

Between mid-2009 and February 2015, Youngman Lotus had reported total production figures of 196,234 rebadged CKD GEN-2 and Persona units, of which 189,872 were reportedly sold.[113][N 2] However, by mid-2015, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) stopped reporting Youngman Lotus sales numbers because they were “way off” from registration numbers.[91] Youngman Lotus had ceased production and sales altogether by mid-2015.[91] In February 2015, Proton announced that they would revive their joint venture with Fujian-based Goldstar, and would not renew their contract with Youngman.[92][93]

Honda[edit]

Further information: Proton Perdana

On 29 October 2012, Proton entered a collaboration with Honda Motor Company, Ltd.[114] Both companies have agreed to explore collaboration opportunities in the areas of technology enhancement, new product line up and the sharing of vehicle platforms and facilities.[115]

In November 2013, it was revealed that the PRM would be based on the North American eighth generation Honda Accord.[116] The PRM will launch in two phases, the first in mid-December for sale exclusively to the Malaysian government and the second within the next two years for the Malaysian domestic market.[117] Around 3,000 units of the PRM will be produced initially to replace the ageing Proton Perdana V6 fleet in use by the federal government.[63] The result of the collaboration, the second generation Proton Perdana, was unveiled on 11 December 2013 at an official ceremony in Putrajaya.[39]

Motorsport[edit]

1980s and 1990s[edit]

Proton has a significant historical presence in motorsports. In the late 1980s, an alliance consisting of Proton, Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas, Mitsubishi Motors of Japan and distributor of Proton cars, Edaran Otomobil Nasional (EON) led to the formation of the Petronas EON Racing Team (PERT).[118] The team focused primarily on rally racing and has been in motorsports as early as 1987.[119] PERT won the 1989 Shell Malaysia Rally with Proton Saga rally cars which were prepared by Mitsubishi's Ralliart division, featuring powerful 150 bhp engines as part of its rally specifications.[120] PERT won several other international rallies including the 1991 Rally of Thailand, 1993 Dubai International Rally and the Rallye Ng Philipinas in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively.[118][121]

2000s[edit]

Proton's presence in international motorsports peaked when the Petronas EON Racing Team won the 2002 Production World Rally Championship with veteran Malaysian rally driver Karamjit Singh in a Proton PERT, a rebadged Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.[118][122] The Proton-Karamjit duo also won the 2001, 2002 and 2004 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles.[123][124][125]

In 2003, the Proton Motorsports Division, also known as "Race.Rally.Research., R3", was established.[118] R3 assumed the responsibility of Proton's motorsports endeavours, which had been held by Ralliart of Mitsubishi Motors. The first model to benefit from R3 engineering was the Proton Satria R3 which launched in late 2004 with a limited run of 150 units.

2010s[edit]

Asia-Pacific Rally Championship[edit]

Proton re-entered the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in 2010, an international rally championship organised by the FIA encompassing rounds in Asia and Oceania. Proton had previously participated in the APRC, but withdrew in 2005 due to financial problems. The company competes under the official team name of Proton Motorsports with former WRC drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae from Australia and Scotland respectively in a pair of Proton Satria Neo S2000 rally cars. The new Satria Neo S2000 replaced the Proton PERT as Proton's premier rally car, and was prepared by British-based Mellors Elliot Motorsport (MEM) in accordance to FIA Super 2000 specifications.[126] The cars cost over RM1 million each and are equipped with 280 bhp (271Nm) 2.0 litre engines paired to 4WD drivetrains.[127] Despite facing technical problems and stiff competition from the superior Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru Impreza rally cars, Proton drivers McRae and Atkinson placed 3rd and 5th respectively in the 2010 APRC season.

The following year, Malaysian rally veteran Karamjit Singh rejoined the APRC after a 6-year absence under the Proton R3 Cusco Rally Team in a Group N 2WD CUSCO Japan-tuned 1.6L CamPro 145 hp (170Nm) version of the Satria Neo.[128] Japanese rally driver Akira Bamba also contested in the 2011 APRC season in another Satria Neo CUSCO. The 2011 season concluded with a one-two Proton Motorsports victory with drivers McRae and Atkinson in their Satria Neo S2000s. Karamjit placed 1st in the 2WD category and 7th overall in the championship, ahead of Bamba who placed 9th overall.[129]

In the 2012 APRC season, Chris Atkinson left Proton Motorsports after two years of racing history with the team. Atkinson joined Indian Team MRF instead where he piloted a Škoda Fabia S2000 alongside Indian rally veteran Gaurav Gill. The vacant slot in Proton Motorsports was filled by Swedish racer Per-Gunnar Andersson who also raced for Proton in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Additionally, Proton R3 Cusco added a third driver, Malaysian Kenneth Koh, whereas Dreams India driver Sanjay Takle participated in another 2WD Satria Neo. The 2012 season ended with a Team MRF victory, with Atkinson and Gaurav placing first and fourth respectively in their S2000 Škodas.[130] Proton Motorsports driver McRae clinched second, but Andersson placed a lowly seventh overall with the S2000 Satria Neos.[130] Proton R3 Cusco racers Karamjit, Bamba and Kenneth placed fifth, sixth and eight respectively and Dreams India's Sanjay placed ninth overall.[130]

Intercontinental Rally Challenge[edit]

Proton entered into the Intercontinental Rally Challenge 2009 with the Proton Satria Neo Super 2000. Their best result in IRC is Alister McRae finish 2nd place at 2009 Rally Scotland. Drivers in 2009 were Karamjit Singh, Guy Wilks, Bryan Bouffier and Alister McRae scoring 13 points. In 2010 Proton team had many retirements and did not score a single point. Drivers for 2010 were Alister McRae, Chris Atkinson, Niall McShea, Keith Cronin, Gilles Panizzi and privateer with factory support, Tom Cave. Best result of 2010 season was 22nd place of Gilles Panizzi at 2010 Rallye Sanremo, although it was the only finish of Proton Satria Neo S2000 in this season.

British Touring Car Championship[edit]

The BTC-T Proton Impian of Team Petronas Syntium Proton at Knockhill Circuit, Scotland.

The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) is a touring car racing series held each year in the United Kingdom. Proton participated in the BTCC between 2002 and 2004 as the Petronas Syntium Proton (Team PSP). The team in the 2002 and 2003 BTCC seasons was headed by Scottish and English drivers David Leslie and Phil Bennett respectively in two heavily modified BTC-T Proton Impian touring cars.[131] They were succeeded by South African Shaun Watson-Smith and Malaysian Fariqe Hairuman in the 2004 season.[132] Team PSP won two of 95 races in the BTCC and withdrew after the conclusion of the 2004 season.

In 2011, UK-based Welch Motorsport contested the BTCC in a Proton Persona NGTC, driven by Daniel Welch.[133] Welch Motorsport competes independently and is not tied to Proton, but indirectly supported by Proton UK[134] The team made its debut in the second half of the 2011 BTCC season and scored a point in the final race at the Silverstone Circuit, placing 22nd overall in the tournament. In comparison, 2011 Drivers' Champion Matt Neal of Honda Racing Team scored 257 points.

Welch Motorsport's performance improved significantly in the 2012 BTCC season. Daniel Welch had his best race at Oulton Park, where he finished sixth in race one, and held off defending champion Matt Neal to claim fourth position in race two. Welch Motorsport placed 15th overall with 79 points in the 2012 season, with 2012 Drivers' Champion Gordon Shedden scoring 408 points in comparison.

Welch Motorsport expanded to a two-car team in the 2013 BTCC season. The Proton Persona NGTC returns in the hands of Daniel Welch, whereas the second car is a Super 2000 Mk 2 Ford Focus driven by David Nye.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Total exported includes Proton vehicles which were assembled in Malaysia for export markets (CBU exports) and excludes Proton vehicles which were assembled abroad (CKD exports) such as in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran and the Philippines.
  2. ^ Does not include sales of rebadged CBU GEN-2/Persona units, or Youngman Lotus' indigenously designed models.

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External links[edit]