Chief executive officer Li Chunrong said Proton will be launching its completely-knocked-down X70 “very soon, ” adding that the company will be launching a “brand new model” later in the year.
It is believed that he is referring to the much anticipated X50 compact crossover, which has been spotted being tested on Malaysian roads last year. Unlike the X70 which started selling in Malaysia as a fully imported model, the X50 would launch straight away as a locally assembled model.
“We’re targeting 132,000 cars for 2020, but I challenge everyone in Proton to do more, ” he said in his speech at a media luncheon on Monday.
“For exports, last year we sold 1,070 units without any support. “This year, we want to sell 4,000 units.
“If we get the right type of support, we can achieve 6,000 units, ” said Li, without going into specifics.
He added that Proton exported its cars to six countries last year.
“This year, we try to export to more than 10 countries.
“At the end of last year, we were back to two shifts. We want to produce more.”
Li said Proton launched six models in less than eight months last year.
In terms of the group’s vendor network, Li said Proton is targeting to grow its 3S (sales, service and spare parts) and 4S (sales, service, spare parts and body and paint services) centres to 150 by year-end from 121 currently.
Proton’s total domestic and export sales for 2019 surged by 36,077 units or 55.7% year-on-year to 100,821 units.
Proton’s car sales had in fact surpassed the 64,744 units sold in entire 2018 by September 2019.
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This made Proton the country’s second-biggest car seller, a marked improvement from its fourth ranking in 2018.
Overall market share for the year stood at 16.7%, the company’s highest since 2014.
After a gap of 40 months, Proton returned to second spot in total sales for Malaysia’s automotive market in July last year.
The last time the company was in a similar position was in March 2016, while the last calendar year it finished second was in 2015.
According to a statement by the company earlier this month, sales for the month of December were the highest for the whole of 2019, growing by 112% over the corresponding month in 2018, closing at 11,117 units.
It was also the first time the company sold more than 11,000 cars in a month since July 2014.
Proton’s four models – X70, Saga, Exora and Persona – ended December as best-selling models in their respective segments.
About 26,331 units of X70, which was launched in Dec 2018, were sold in 2019, making it the leader within its segment.
The Saga was the most popular A-segment sedan, with total sales for 2019 closed at 38,144 units. The updated model was launched on Aug 6,2019.
Meanwhile, the Persona, which is a B-segment family sedan, saw total sales volume grow by 29% to 21,876 units in 2019.
Sales of other models such as Iriz grew by 97% in 2019, while the seven-seater Exora posted a 40% sales growth.
Proton recorded its highest sales volume in 2002 with 214,373 units.
According to Frost & Sullivan, total industry volume continues to be more concentrated with the share of the top three players increased to 77.7%.
“Perodua continues to dominate the passenger vehicle segment with a 44.3% market share followed by Proton in second place. Honda dropped to third position with 15.4%.”
It noted that the biggest market share gain in 2019 was registered by Proton.
“The market share grew due to strong performance of the Saga and X70. In the process, Proton regained the second position after a gap of a few years. Perodua has an unassailable lead over all the other players and is expected to remain as the number one player in Malaysia.”
Perodua revised upwards its sales target for 2019 to 235,000 units from 231,000 cars previously, underpinned by sustained healthy demand for all its models.
The company will be announcing its final sales numbers today.
Since Geely became a key investor in Proton in 2017, the latter has undergone a management overhaul and seen marked improvements in its distribution network and sales. With Proton's re-emergence as a competitive threat to be reckoned with, its rivals have turned out to be the non-national brands such as Toyota and Honda, and not Perodua as some perceived. The non-national brands are feeling the pressure as Proton regains its strength, more so with the X50 expected to be launched later this year.
Frost & Sullivan last week announced that its expects flat growth for the local automotive sector in 2020, as ongoing global headwinds and repeated postponement of the National Automative Policy may create uncertainty and affect consumer sentiment.
The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) will announce last year’s official TIV figures later this month.
At its biannual media conference in July last year, the association maintained its 600,000 units TIV forecast for 2019, in light of the economic uncertainties.
MAA president Datuk Aishah Ahmad said consumers and businesses were expected to remain cautious going into the second half of 2019, adding that this would only spur aggressive promotional campaigns by local car companies.