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05 Aug 2009 | Text and photos by Jegan Das Haridas
Wind of change
And we owe it all to an ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA)!
Obvious that they lacked the skills and technological expertise vital in producing a modern automobile, Proton enlisted the help of Mitsubishi Motors who obliged in educating the employees of Proton and providing the Malaysian brand with their mechanical parts.
To summarize the rest of the time-line, Proton came up with the Saga, then the Wira and the Perdana. Acquiring Lotus technologies in 1996, sales figures for the Satria GTi skyrocketed and the momentum rolled over to the Wira's replacement in the Gen-2.
From single-handedly boasting 60% of Malaysia's vehicle ownership pie in 2002, their market share collapsed to a staggering 30%. Proton said that it was "due to the fact that competitors cut their prices", but rather, it was the decreased protectionism of the brand that came from inking the ASEAN FTA, and the rise of Perodua that dealt Dr Mahathir's brainchild it's inevitable fate.
Why the intro was necessary
Because that's what got the wheels turning in a different direction.
Proton went back to the drawing board, reconstructed their management flow, tightened up their various processes and more importantly, realised that the trick to impressive sales figures is to listen to your customers and keep track of the market trends. For years the MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) market has been a burgeoning one in places like Malaysia, Thailand and especially Indonesia where almost 75% of the vehicle population are filled by these people movers.
All Proton did was to put their ear to the ground.
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4-cylinders 16-valves DOHC
125 bhp / 6500 rpm
150 Nm / 4500 rpm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h)