Some 10 years ago Proton, the Malaysian automobile manufacturer entered Pakistani market with a range of vehicles. Launch ceremony which was held on Friday 15th September 2006 was honored by the then Chief Minister of Sindh Mr. Arbab Ghulam Raheem. Four models were introduced namely the Impian 1.6, Gen-2 1.3 & 1.6, Wira 1.5 and Saga 1.3.
Most of the vehicles were based on Mitsubishi’s technology as Proton had a technical collaboration agreement with the Japanese manufacturer. Although the vehicles were priced quite competitively and CNG equipped versions were also available, Proton cars were unable to do well and the company within just a few years packed up & left.
The Proton Saga
The least expensive model among the lineup was Proton Saga, the 1.3 liter car based on the 2nd generation Lancer of mid 80s. Back in 2006 with a 3 years/ 60,000km warranty the Saga was priced at PKR 6.49 lac while the CNG fitted version was available for PKR 6.79 lac. Just for the sake of comparison the Cultus VXR by Pak Suzuki was available for PKR 5.9 lac back then, while the power packed Cultus VXL was available for PKR 6.1 lac.
Equipped with a powerful 90hp 1300cc engine, power steering, power windows, central locking, security alarm system, reverse parking sensors, cd player etc the Saga was indeed a good value for money but majority never went for it probably due to its conservative looks.
Saga, Then & Now..
However since their exit from Pakistan, Proton during the previous decade has achieved leaps & bounds in automobile development and is producing some absolutely stunning vehicles recently.
The Saga that appeared in our market was phased out in 2008 and was replaced by the 2nd generation BT3/BT6 model. In 2010 the 2nd generation Saga received a facelift (FL/FLX) while Proton is about to unveil an all new 3rd generation Saga later this month.
The upcoming 3rd generation Proton Saga
Images of the upcoming Saga have been leaked on the internet while just yesterday the 3rd generation Saga has been awarded a four-star safety rating by ASEAN NCAP ahead of its launch. The new Saga has a sleeker twin-slat chrome grille design, redesigned front bumper, new headlamps and a re-profiled hood, trapezoidal wraparound tail-lamps connected by a chrome bar and a new bumper design. Under the hood, the Proton Saga will carry 1.3-litre VVT engine which produces 70 kW and 120 Nm of peak torque, mated to either a 5-speed manual gearbox or CVT transmission.
Proton’s global presence
Although Proton relies primarily on its domestic market for the majority of its sales and revenues, small volumes of Proton cars are also exported to various other countries in Asia, as well as United Kingdom and Australia. Proton intends to regain a global foothold with 500,000 annual sales by 2018 since the company held a far larger global sales network in the 1990s, spanning all six continents and over 70 countries.
According to reports Proton have constructed an assembly Plant in Bangladesh with Proton Preve as the first vehicle to be assembled as CKD. Proton signed an agreement with Bangladesh conglomerate PHP Group to build 1,200 Preves annually. Proton is also aiming to increase its export volume from 5,000 units in 2015, to 7,000 units with resuming of exports to Chile, and the transition from CBU to CKD cars in Bangladesh.
In the wake of new auto policy & with Pakistan government in its constant efforts to bring European car manufacturers in the country, Proton from Malaysia remains a strong option with their low budget quality cars. With an impressive range of vehicles today Proton can definitely do better in our market should they plan to re-enter. However this time they need to have a better strategy, proper after sales support network and more importantly a long term vision.