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Proton Cars Australia says it’s going in a new direction to build brand credibility and is moving away from cheap pricing as the brand’s key selling point.

Speaking at the local launch of the new Proton Suprima S, Proton Cars Australia sales and marketing general manager Billy Falconer said it was time for the Malaysian brand to shift focus.

“In Australia our new direction is about offering value for money; we want to be known as [the] value for money [brand]. We don’t want to be known as cheap going forward,” Falconer said.

proton-1

He admitted the transition would take time and said Proton would in the meantime concentrate its energy on new models to revitalise the brand for the future.

“It’s time for this brand to change, we know that will take time, we want to ensure that vehicles launched going forward do offer that value for money.”

Proton is the only brand in Australia that offers a trifecta of five-year warranty, roadside assistance and free servicing (five years or 75,000km as per the 12-month/15,000km servicing schedule).

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The image shift will see the Malaysian brand essentially increase its prices (based on previous price points) to incorporate the cost of the additional services while also producing safer and more advanced vehicles.

“[Proton is] moving away from that cheap price point that we’ve had in the past. In the past we haven’t had five-star ANCAP safety rating, [so the] price had to be a point of difference. Going forward that will change. Instead of offering lower prices as we’ve done in the past, we are value adding as opposed to being down in the market.”

Falconer says the aim of the Proton brand is to now offer an alternative to the Korean and Japanese brands.

“[A cheaper] price hasn’t got us to where we need to be, it’s about being competitive and changing the product so people buy it because it’s a Proton not because it’s a cheap and nasty price.”

Proton went through a period from late 2009 until this year where no new cars or updates came to market, but the introduction of the Exora, Preve and now Suprima S will see the Malaysian brand go into 2014 with a refreshed showroom.

Earlier this year Proton had fewer than 20 active dealers. That number has now increased to about 30, and is planned to hit 50 by the end of 2014.


  • Guest

    There is a small problem – literally no one even knows Proton is even here.

  • Westie

    Unfortunately, up until now “cheap” has been the ONLY appeal for Proton.
    Didn’t they try improving their image with the introduction of the Waja (maybe?) years ago, at the then inflated Golf prices?
    To compete with the Japanese and Hyundai/Kia, they need good looking, good driving, quality product.
    Cheap cars loaded up with trinkets and “cut price” servicing (that you’ve already paid for) can only compete with the Chinese bottom feeders.
    And launching cars with a discount at day one? That’s confidence.

    • Doctor

      Yes, last time Proton tried this it almost disappeared from Australia.
      Now there is much more competition so the product will have to be much better.
      Time will tell but I think it’ll fail.

      • realist

        An over inflated opinion of themselves as usual and like last time. the problem for them is they are making cars to compete with down graded cars on their market. So even coming in above them, still puts them well below whats available here.

  • loft

    They dont wanna be known as the cheap brand, they wanna be known as the expensive brand with cheap products. Haha

  • JL

    If you don’t want to be known as cheap…. Dont build cheap cars…

    • Hugo

      Realistically, Proton can get from “rubbish” to “good” but it’ll take decades. You gotta start out building rubbishy cars and pricing them low, just to get practice at building cars. Eventually you get to the point (as the Koreans did in the early 2000s) where people start to notice that your cars are actually starting to get pretty good, but you need to keep pushing them out the door at those low prices just to get mind-share.

      Eventually you get to the stage where the Koreans are now, where people are forced to admit that “Hey, this is actually a really good car on its own terms” and you can raise your prices to match the Japanese, because you’ve built the respectability of the Japanese.

      But you gotta raise the quality (a slow process) and then you can raise the prices. You can’t go around pretending that raising your prices will magically make people think your cars are good. That’s just being impatient.

  • nugsdad

    Either did Infiniti

  • aaa

    The best cars Proton has made are the ones based on the Mitsubishi Lancers. But poorly put together by Proton. Go figure.
    This is just a case of the Proton management and marketing department overtaking their capability.

  • zahmad

    Atleast they design and make their own products now…
    Just need to hire some well known big guns I think like Kia did with Schreyer…

    • Guest

      Problem with Proton is that they are controlled by a large politically
      motivated company DRB-Hicom who has no idea of OEM biz, they only assemble cars for VW. Merc and few more and they believe that can do magic. They have created havoc in proton since take over and all they want is money. They will never hire a big gun for proton as they are scared that he may become in lime light. Like what happened to Dr. Epple the EX BMW director who worked for them. They asked him to leave. Many other people also were asked to leave or not continue because they don’t want smart people there to work with their team. Proton will succeed only when it is controlled by a proper OEM company and not a bunch of Lawyers and accountants who are from post office or a bank to run an OEM company. I have friends in Malaysia and in utomotive sector who tell me all about the problem proton is facing, with heir suppliers, Lotus, being forced to work with incompetent companies mainly rom UK!!! Like the mess they had on their Hybrid projects. I wish proton people “Not their useless Bosses” luck.

  • crouchy35

    Hyundai/Kia give brands like this great hope. Unfortunately succesfully turning this sort of image around takes great investment and time. Good luck to them but im not sure they have a great deal of either.

  • Guest

    5 stars crashed-safety rating and 5 years free maintenance service, sweet.

    • Drivers

      wow! 5 Star ANCAP? Proton really do serious to catch up with those KIA/HUYNDAI this time around.

  • barry

    Its a tough decision for the Malaysian Government.If you protect your car industry with large tarrifs it will survive.But will make a product that will only sell on price.
    Reducing protection will build a better Proton.But the Australian experience will tell you that it could destroy the Malaysian car industry.From memory Malaysians are quirt loyal to there local product.

    • Daniel D

      Well there is hope for them yet Barry. Most Australians are quite loyal to anyone BUT their local products.

      • barry

        Funny Daniel was watching an old Top Gear show the other day.Post GFC and the stockbrokers had gone from driving Ferrari to Protons.Top Gear picked the eyes out of Proton.
        Don’t get me wrong Daniel I have no axe to grind against Prorton.Hope it stays the Malaysian no1 selling car.

        • Darryl

          That’s what I thought, but the biggest selling brand in Malaysia is Perodua.

          • barry

            Interesting Darryl.Another local brand.

      • Igomi Watabi

        Three locally assembled cars amongst the best-selling cars in this country. Not loyal?

      • Malaysian In Sydney

        actually it the same goes to malaysian.. thats why proton cant develop that well. Only Korean have that loyalist sense. Thats why their industry blooms… KIA/HYUNDAI.. even Samsung..

    • Karl Sass

      It’s not an all or nothing game. Tariffs should be as low as possible that allows the manufacturers to be profitable, while still keeping them on their toes.

      • barry

        They have got it wrong,so have we,good comment.

    • Khairul

      We Malaysian are NOT loyal to local products. Most of us simply don’t have a choice. Proton is an embarrassment & a symbol of corruption.

      • Aero

        Yes, yes, you forgot to add we Malaysians are brand snobs and are willing to buy outdated ‘new’ Toyotas with 1990s NA engines, 4-speed autos and dual airbags (aka Vios). In short, stick a Japanese badge on a piece of dung, and we Malaysians will buy it for sure.

        • Homer

          Absolutely. In a developing country like Malaysia, brand image counts more than core value. Yes you may say silly. there are more vios sold there than say the better made ford fiesta with 6 speed auto. They can be easily fooled by japaneese “quality”

          • Khairul

            That’s partially true. The main reason is resale value. In Malaysia, generally speaking, only Honda & Toyota hold their resale value well.

          • Aero

            Bro, you do realize that Homer and I were being sarcastic right ? *face palm*

          • Steven

            I dont think he’s understand.. well.. malaysian.. haha.. same as their products.. always talk about politics.. even on a car sites

  • Benzened

    What, so raise prices and keep quality the same?

  • MattOz

    They don’t want to be known as cheap, but they clone the current Lancer and rebadge it as the Inspira back in Malaysia.

  • Cobrajet

    I just laughed when I found this article, I guess they are trying to separate themselves from the level of the chinese cars.

  • LowRezFez

    It’s the Waja debacle all over again. Proton are a joke… build a better car than the Golf, then I’ll take notice.

  • SamR

    Good luck! No-one ever buys a Proton by choice.

  • lorryguy

    Am I reading correctly here? 5 years free service! This is gold for 5 stars rating car.

  • Vti07

    Maybe they should rebadge some older Honda models and sell them for a competitive price. Otherwise, what is the point of the Proton / Honda partnership arrangement that was supposed to have happened?

  • Don Quay

    IIRC, a few years ago, there was a billboard over the M4 near Olympic Park with the slogan “the BMW of Asia”. Remind me again how that went. How many punters do you think traded their 3 series in on Protons?

  • jayden

    I noticed so many Malaysians come to this site to talk about their country’s politics and bashing their own products. guess even malaysian are emberassed of their own product huh? its weird.

  • Proton Accord

    Malaysia PM launches new-look Proton Perdana as govt’s official car
    New Straits Times, 11 December 2013

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak points at the newly launched Proton Perdana which will be the official car of the government. Accompanying him are Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Proton executive chairman Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil (left) BERNAMA PIX

    The new-look Proton Perdana comes in two variants, the Perdana 2.0L and 2.4L. BERNAMA PIX

    PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launched the new-look Proton Perdana as the official car of the government.

    This Proton Perdana comes in two variants, the Perdana 2.0 L and 2.4 L, with improved security features and comfort.

    Two special edition units of the car were brought out for Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

    At the event, Najib received his official car bearing registration number W 11 N.

    Several Cabinet ministers and Proton executive chairman Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil were present at the event.

    Later, at a press conference, Mohd Khamil said Proton Holdings Berhad, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DRB-Hicom, had delivered the first batch of 200 units to the Government.

    He said a total of 3,000 units would be delivered on a staggered basis over the space of two years to replace the existing fleet of Proton Perdanas.

    “For the moment, the new Proton Perdana will be used only as the official car of the government. It will not be sold to the public.

    “Proton has received requests from the state governments and statutory bodies to make the switch as well, but this is subject to approval,” he said.

    Mohd Khamil said the new Proton Perdana was part of the development programme undertaken by Proton with its collaborative partner, Honda of Japan.

    “We are truly grateful to our Prime Minister and the Malaysian government for keeping their faith in Proton and for giving us the opportunity once again to be the provider of the official government vehicle,” he said.

    Mohd Khamil said the Perdana replacement model came under the first phase of Proton’s plan to develop a new D-segment (large family) car.

    He said Proton had began the second phase of the programme which involved further development of the D-Segment model under a platform-sharing initiative with Honda, with a completely new interior design and exterior changes.

    “It will be unveiled to the Malaysian market in 18 to 24 months’ time, and will be sold to the public,” he said. – Bernama
    _________________________________

    Najib bows to Proton pressure?
    by K Kabilan, Free Malaysia Today, September 17, 2013

    High-placed sources claim government backtracks on decision to use Honda Accords after Proton forces its way in by promising new executive models, deliverable in the next three months.

    KUALA LUMPUR: Proton has emerged as a major winner after forcing the government to make a last minute U-turn to allow the national carmaker to continue supplying official vehicles to the federal government to replace the aging Proton Perdana Executive and Inspira series.

    The government had originally agreed in July this year to replace the Perdana Executive and Inspira fleet with the Honda Accord series.

    Honda Accord was picked following Proton’s inability to come up with a model to replace the out-of-production Perdana series. Letters to that effect had been sent out to all government agencies and ministers. In fact, Honda has been notified of the immediate purchase of 350 Accords – the 2013 models which were launched early this month.

    However on Monday, Sept 9, Proton managed to convince Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to allow Proton to continue supplying its models to the federal government. The speed in which this decision was made has baffled Putrajaya officials and industry players.

    According to government sources, the Proton high-level management team had called for a meeting with the National Economic Advisory Council on Monday to put forward their proposals on their readiness to supply the official fleet. The meeting was chaired by Najib.

    According to the people-in-the-know, Proton informed the economic council and Najib that it was ready with a new model which could be used for the official government fleet, and that the delivery could be made as early as next January.

    On Tuesday, a team of high ranking government officials made a visit to Proton to inspect the prototype vehicle, coming back highly convinced of the model.

    On Wednesday, Najib informed the cabinet that the earlier decision to replace the Perdana Executive and Inspira series with Honda Accord had been cancelled, and that Proton would be delivering its models for the government fleet.

    Sources said Najib had said that the decision was made as “it was the government’s duty to protect Proton”. This was reminiscent of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s defence of Proton in the past. Proton is Mahathir’s brainchild and he continues to serve as the carmaker’s advisor.

    Industry players claimed that Proton managed to outmuscle the government on this matter by using the influence of Proton’s godfather Mahathir and business tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al- Bukhary, whose company DRB-Hicom took over Proton in 2012. Interestingly DRB-Hicom also has a joint venture manufacturing collaboration with Honda.

    FMT also learnt that Mahathir had met Najib personally on this matter.

    Questions persist on Proton’s ability

    Although Proton has managed to keep its hold to supply the government vehicles, questions still remain on its ability to deliver as promised.

    “Proton has failed to introduce a proper replacement model for the Perdana series all these years. And now it has promised the government to deliver a new model by the beginning of next year.

    “What is of concern is, how can they come up with a model so quickly when six months ago they were clueless, to the extent of allowing the government to look at Honda?”

    “Now, suddenly their R&D work is complete, and they have a prototype. Even then, can they start their manufacturing line quick enough to supply the vehicles to the government over the next four years?,” asked an industry expert.

    “What about doing the roadworthiness tests and other inspections on the new model? Do they have the time for this?”

    He also asked if Proton had its own engines to fit the models, or if they would be tapping into someone else’s product.

    “Would the final product be a unit which, say, belongs to Honda, an engine from someone else, but is passed off as a Proton model?”

    “If that’s the case, the only work Proton would be doing is to assemble the units, fit in the engines, do some cosmetic works, and put its badge before delivering them to the government,” he speculated.

    Another industry oldtimer said that the whole scheme appeared as though the government was only interested in bailing out Syed Mokhtar and Proton.

    “It does not make any sense. Why would Najib agree to this last minute flip-flop? Why not proceed with the Honda Accord models as planned, and when Proton is eventually ready with its own models, the government can then use the Proton models,” he said.

    “This is a false sense of nationalism, saying that the government was duty-bound to support Proton,” he said.

    He speculated that in the end, even if Proton was unable to deliver the vehicles next January, DRB- Hicom would be in a position to marry the Proton brand name and the available Honda Accord models for delivery.

    “At the end of the day, it all looks like Proton wanting to keep its name as the government’s official fleet supplier. Obviously the benefits are huge for them to go to this level to convince the government to continue backing them,” he said.

    An official announcement on the decision to use Proton models as official government vehicles is expected to be announced soon.

  • LowRezFez

    Are you Malay? If so, be proud… Of all things Malay… Except for Proton cars.