After years of neglect and as part of a five-year turnaround plan instigated by its owner that will also see the development of a “global small car”, Proton, the Malaysian-made mass-market car, will be relaunched in Britain next month.

The relaunch started earlier this year, according to analysts, who attended a recent event at Proton’s main manufacturing plant. DRB-Hicom, a Kuala Lumpur-listed conglomerate that owns Proton and the UK’s Lotus sports car business, aims to sell 500,000 cars per year globally by 2017 or 2018 under the plan.

Most of those sales will still be in Proton’s home market of Malaysia, where the car is a common sight on the streets. But the Southeast Asian nation is also trying to breathe fresh life into overseas sales after years of sagging performance.

Proton wants to go into new markets as part of a revamp of its manufacturing facilities, which aims to address years of concern over quality and reliability. In the UK, where Proton saw modest success in the late 1990s with a model powered by a Mitsubishi engine, sales dwindled to just 208 units this year.

Analysts at AmResearch, a Malaysian broker, and DBS Vickers Securities, the Malaysian broking arm of Singapore’s DBS Bank, wrote in notes to clients that 150,000 of the total 500,000 units would be earmarked for export. Shortly after its UK push, Proton will also target the Middle East market.

This month Proton launched its new Suprima hatchback in Australia, which it billed as its “most well-equipped product to date”. Thailand and Brunei are to follow, after a launch in Indonesia that came before Australia.

RB-Hicom would also launch a “global small car” early next year, with estimated annual production of 60,000 units “in the initial stage”. Under a “strategic collaboration” with Honda, Proton would start production of its Perdana sedan for supply to the Malaysian government, with annual production of 3,000 units.

Via Financial Times


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