Can Proton disrupt the Asean car market?

POSTED BY Yamin Vong ON 04 September 2019


Dear Tun Dr Mahathir,

After more than three decades, your powerful vision of a national car, is on a winning streak and this time, I’m more confident of its success in Malaysia and in the region as never before.

And before you know it, Proton could be assembling shared platforms and selling Electric Vehicles as shared platforms from Geely’s latest sub-brand, Geometry. The company said it has already received about 26,000 orders for its first model, the Geometry A.

So dear Tun M, Proton was your baby and it’s now a grown up adult with a partner that you would never have guessed 35 years ago.

But as for the vision of Malaysia being a regional automotive hub, Proton cars such as the X70 and the upcoming X50 could well be seen in Bangkok, Jakarta and HCM city within three years if Proton’s trajectory is unhindered. These SUV’s will be platforms shared from Proton’s 49 pct partner, the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH). Platform sharing is a successful business model in the automotive industry.

What’s in it for us, Malaysian? A genuinely world competitive Proton will bring car prices further down for Malaysians and Asean countries. It will give jobs for Malaysian.

So why will Proton be the Malaysian National Car champion?

It’s the partnership of two independent car companies and the shared vision of a bigger market share in Asean.

Looking to the future, Proton’s partner ZGH has the technology and the economies of scale. With ZGH’s support, Proton is unlimited in its ambitions to carve a share of ASEAN, the world’s third biggest car market.

Conversely, Perodua will export only when its stakeholders, Daihatsu and Toyota Motor Corp, determine that it’s in their interest.

With ZGH in the picture, Proton can become successful in the region just as Perodua is successful in Malaysia. Platform sharing to amortise R&D over a broader base of customers is a no brainer.

Can we imagine that Proton will be a disruptor of the Asean car market? Even if it doesn’t turn out that way, the other disruptor will be technology.

Urs Mueller, an automotive consultant, based in Bangkok and Malaysia, said that as recently as 2016, prospective EV buyers in Thailand found their choices limited to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) priced at over 2 million baht (rm275,000).

This year, there are more than 10 models from Audi, BYD, FOMM, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia and Nissan, although all but the FOMM carry seven-figure price tags. MG, the newest entry in the field, introduced its ZS EV in Bangkok three weeks ago for 1.19 million baht (RM163,000).

We won’t know the price of the X50 until it’s launched, but if it gives the value that the X70 has, then Proton will have two potential Asean car market winners. Trust that will make your day, dear Tun.