When Proton had been under Geely Motors, it had been criticized by some quarter of our car lovers and even politician who wish to make this as a politic issue. Some even had said that this act is to destroy Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammed legacy. Without taking any political side on this, they are some car manufacturer who had been taken over by some foreign company and it had been a great success and with this ownership, they had revitalized the car brand again like Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, Lamborghini, and others. In the case like Bugatti and Lamborghini, it had been rescued by the Volkswagen Group and had been revitalized back. However, the case for the Proton is completely different and they are several reasons for why they need Geely Motors expertise to revive them.
When Proton was launched in 1985 with their first model Proton Saga, it had been celebrated as a sense of patriotism as we had become the first South East Asia country to produce our own car and the third after Japan and South Korea in Asia. However, they are another twist on this and that is the increase of the foreign levy tax for the imported car. To protect Proton, the government at that time had decided to increase the foreign levy charges making our car prices as the second most expensive in the South East Asian region after Singapore. Even though United States government whom still helping General Motors and the Swedish whom do not provide any government protection to this own Volvo, they had been successful in term of the competition and maybe due to this protection Proton had become complacent.
Proton does not have its own identity and philosophy. BMW is famed for their slogan “Ultimate Driving Machine”, Mercedes Benz for safety innovation and luxury, Honda for its Man Maximum Machine Minimum philosophy, Volvo for his safety, Porsche as a high-performance car, Rolls Royce and Bentley as an ultra-luxury handmade car, Toyota for its own reliable and the famed Toyota Management and other car manufacturer had their own philosophy and they will design their car based on that philosophy but Proton do they had any philosophy like these great car manufacturers and the answer is none. How we can define Proton, the answer is none and just a bad reputation for safety and reliability especially the power windows.
When Volkswagen Group had appointed Ferdinand Karl Piëch as their CEO, he made Volkswagen become one of the biggest car manufacturers in Europe after he had gone to a buying spree of taking over Lamborghini, Bugatti, Skoda, and many more. Volvo had still created a safety product and his CEO had mentioned that by 2020 they will be no loss of life in the Volvo Cars, Tata Motors had defied the odds and making Jaguar as the luxury car again and many more. Proton had never had a leader on this caliber except for the Dato Sri Haji Syed Zainal who had revived Proton and making Proton a household name again which the launch on Proton Pesona one of the best Proton cars to date. When he had resigned, then Proton had become down again until they need to take the help of Geely Motors who had successfully made an SUV in Proton.
Apart from the glorious collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors and followed by Lotus Motors which is expected to have knowledge transfer but instead it had been failed miserably. When Mazda had been collaborating with Ford Motors they successfully had made a great knowledge transfer from Ford and when the collaboration had been broken off, they had implemented their own idea and become one of the most successful Japanese cars after Toyota and Honda in the world. Where Proton had not been able to do it successfully.
Another reason for the Proton failure is due to management bureaucracy and less innovation from their end. Some of the established car maker had created some of the best innovation that comes like Volvo with the safety features, Honda with their Honda Lane Watch, Toyota with the successful combination of electric motors and combustion engine that made the hybrid become one of the must-have models in the car manufacturer, BMW with Display Key, Mercedes Benz with their keyless entry innovation, Volkswagen with their mixed review DSG transmission, and many more. Do Proton had the innovation as a car manufacturer and the answer is none. Apart from the famous CAMPRO engine, they are least or no innovation from their end and only after collaboration with Geely Motors that Proton had successfully launched their own SUV where before they had no SUV in their car models.
Although this reason is looked harsh but in truth Malaysian loved the car so much that they are willing to pay any amount for the car that they feel is worth for and will not hesitate to put a big amount for the car. In this case, Malaysians will love to buy Proton if they feel that is the right car for them and feels the car provides a great driving experience for them whether in the comfort or performance or the combination of both. Even the price for the Proton car can be considered on the higher side, which makes the car lovers in our country prefers the Japanese car and some car lovers had mentioned that Proton spare parts are expensive.
As a car lover, we are hoping that Geely Motors will succeed in making a better car for Proton like they did with the Volvo where they had totally transformed the car design to more stylish but at some time keeping the company tradition of safety intact. Even though some quarter may feel that ownership of Geely Motors is not the right thing but if the Geely Motors had successfully revitalized Proton then it is a great move. After some of the traditional car, makers had been taken over by foreign ownership and it had been successful, let’s hope Geely Motors is able to do it with Proton to change they tag from failure to a successful one.