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.
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).
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.