Proton wants to double its exports this year, the carmaker has declared. This is on the back of a flurry of activity in December that included the starting of CKD operations in Kenya and the launch of the Proton X70 in Pakistan. The late dash saw 2020 exports increase by nearly 50% over 2019. Domestic sales grew by 8.8% year-on-year.
The aim to double export figures in 2021 is a “challenging target” but one that is achievable “assuming that export activities are not overly hampered by restrictions due to the global pandemic.” Proton said, adding that exports is a vital part of its long-term goal to be the third best-selling automotive brand in ASEAN by 2027. Spearheading the expansion will be the Saga, followed by the X70 and X50 SUVs.
“Over the last two years, Proton’s international sales division has been aggressively pursuing export sales in numerous markets. We have deployed multiple strategies to achieve our goals, from shipping CBU vehicles built in Malaysia to inking agreements with local conglomerates to assemble CKD cars to benefit from local tax incentives,” said Steven Xu, Proton’s director of international sales.
“We targeted to see significant gains in 2020 but those plans were affected by Covid-19. Still, we managed to grow our export volume, enter new markets such as Kenya and even launch the Proton X50 in Brunei barely two months after its Malaysian debut so there are many positives to take in to the new calendar year,” he added.
Proton says that its products comply with the needs of different markets. For instance, the Saga exported to Pakistan uses a 1,299 cc engine instead of the 1,332 cc unit in Malaysian-spec cars, due to the tax structure. Sagas exported to Pakistan, Egypt and Nepal also come with an upgraded AC system and heater, which is vital in winter.
The X70 and X50 meanwhile help to project a sophisticated brand image for Proton in export markets, where they compete with Japanese and Korean rivals. Like in Malaysia, the duo have driver assist tech and a voice command interface to draw in punters.
“The Saga remains a popular model in many countries due to its hardiness, practicality and value for money proposition but in order to lift our brand image, it is important for our newer models such as the X70 and X50 to also be exported. This will show car buyers what the company is capable of and help pave the way for us to sell other models in the future to fill up the range,” Xu said.
Proton Edar CEO Roslan Abdullah says that Proton works closely with its overseas distributors to ensure a cohesive market introduction, promotion and product launch plan to suit local market conditions. A consistent brand image is a must.
“Proton as a brand is now over 35 years old and we have strong brand recognition thanks to our previous export activities and participation in international motorsports. However, our products have not been available in many parts of the world for a variety of reasons. Our new range of updated and jointly developed products with Geely presents an opportunity to change the narrative by opening up ownership to more countries and we are optimistic they will find a ready market in many countries,” he said.
“By working closely with our foreign partners, we aim to present a consistent message in all our export markets and ultimately, this will make it easier for the Proton brand name to establish itself in even more countries. This is in line with our aim to promote Malaysia and its vendors on a regional and global level and ultimately, this will raise their competitiveness and benefit the economy as a whole,” he added.
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