PROTON Saga and SUVs to spearhead growth in export sales

Following a year that saw it successfully overcoming challenges posed by the pandemic and launching a second SUV, Malaysian car manufacturer PROTON has set its sights on growing export sales in 2021. A flurry of activity in December that included the beginning of CKD operations in Kenya and the launch of the Proton X70 in Pakistan saw export sales end the year with an increase of nearly 50% compared to domestic sales that grew by 8.8%.

For the coming year, the company has set itself another challenging target of doubling export sales over 2020, assuming that export activities are not overly hampered by restrictions due to the global pandemic. Spearheading the expansion will be PROTON’s most popular model, the evergreen Proton Saga, followed by the Proton X70 and Proton X50 as they are gradually introduced to more overseas markets.

Exports to power PROTON’s future
The export market is a vital part of PROTON’s long-term goal to be the third best-selling automotive brand in ASEAN by 2027. While sales leadership in the domestic market will always be a main priority, the company recognises that in order to grow for the future, it needs to expand its customer base and search for sales in other countries.

Charged with the task of leading the overseas expansion is Steven Xu, PROTON’s director of international sales.

“Over the last two years, PROTON’s international sales division has been aggressively pursuing export sales in numerous markets. We have deployed multiple strategies to achieve our goals, from shipping CBU vehicles built in Malaysia to inking agreements with local conglomerates to assemble CKD cars to benefit from local tax incentives.

“We targeted to see significant gains in 2020 but those plans were affected by Covid-19. Still, we managed to grow our export volume, enter new markets such as Kenya and even launch the Proton X50 in Brunei barely two months after its Malaysian debut so there are many positives to take in to the new calendar year,” he said.

One of the keys to growing exports is having products that appeal to a number of different markets and to comply with the needs of the market. For instance, the Proton Saga exported in Pakistan uses a 1299cc engine instead of the bigger 1332cc motor used in Malaysia as small capacity vehicles are popular. The same model is also sold in Nepal as it was also developed with a heater, a vital component for markets with cold winter months.

The Proton X70 and Proton X50 meanwhile help to project a sophisticated brand image. Armed with advanced software, a voice command interface and a comprehensive driver assist package, both SUVs compete against rivals from Japanese and Korean brands and help define PROTON’s messaging in markets where building consumer education remains as a vital step.