Proton Looks to India for Export Sales
By Brendan Moore
Proton, the inscrutable Malaysian auto manufacturer, has announced that they intend to sell their cars in India.
Proton has some sales in the Southeast Asia market, and some sales in the Middle East and Asia, but over 90% of their annual sales are still in their home country of Malaysia.
Proton used to have a protected market until a few years ago, when the Malaysian government liberalized their home market, which led to Proton’s sales plummeting. Proton had, and still has, some quality issues with their vehicles, and once Malaysians were able to buy Japanese cars, they did.
The company plunged into a financial abyss, prompting intense speculation at the time that a partnership with either VW or GM was imminent. But, Proton rebuffed both those suitors, and decided to go it alone.
Proton’s financial numbers have improved, but the consensus is that they still need a partner as their lineup of vehicle platforms is getting long in the tooth, and they really don’t have the R&D budget to keep up with other manufacturers.
Proton has been keen to enter the growing Indian auto market for some years and the company was reportedly in talks with Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra as well as contract manufacturer Argentum Motors. Those efforts came to naught, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making the statement in the last few months that they intend to enter the Indian market “shortly”.
As a follow-up, Proton Holdings Berhad Managing Director H S Z A B Syed Mohamed Tahir stated recently, “On this note, we will be launching new programmes regionally, specifically in ASEAN, China, India and the Middle East… Proton will leave no stone unturned in our vision to strengthen our brand equity within the local and regional arena.”
But, of course, no specific date, and, no further comment from Proton whatsoever.
Proton has a history of making public statements that are not specific as it relates to their business, and subsequently never following up with details, leaving the initial statement to slowly fade away. Time will tell if this is one of those instances; or, if, Proton has something actually cooking in India as I type this.
India would probably be a good market for Proton, with much of the local competition at the same stage of technology and quality as they are, provided they can stay at the right price point. If they try to go upmarket in India with some of their higher-priced cars, they will run right into the same Japanese competition that Proton had trouble with in their home market.
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