PROTON Holdings

PROTON Holdings Berhad
Subsidiary
Industry Automotive
Founded 7 May 1983 (34 years ago)
Founder Mahathir Mohamad
Headquarters Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
Area served
Southeast Asia, Australia, United Kingdom, Turkey, Middle East, Chile, Egypt, Cyprus
Key people
Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar ( Chairman)
Li Chunrong ( CEO)
Radzaif Mohamed (Deputy CEO)
Products Automobiles
Number of employees
12,000
Parent From July 2017 [1]
DRB-HICOM (50.1%)
Geely (49.9%)
Divisions PONSB Sdn Bhd
Proton Edar
Subsidiaries Proton R3
Website www.proton.com

PROTON Holdings Berhad, (PHB; informally Proton) is a Malaysia-based corporation active in automobile design, manufacturing, distribution and sales. Proton was established in 1983 as the sole national badged car company until the advent of Perodua in 1993. The company is headquartered in Shah Alam, Selangor, and operates additional facilities at Proton City, Perak. 'PROTON' is a Malay acronym for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional (National Automobile Company).

Proton was originally a manufacturer of rebadged Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) products in the 1980s and 1990s. Proton produced its first indigenously designed, non-badge engineered car in the year 2000, and elevated Malaysia as the 11th country in the world with the capability to design cars from the ground up. [2] Since the 2000s, Proton has produced a mix of locally engineered and badge engineered vehicles. Proton cars are currently sold in at least 15 countries, the majority of which are in Asia.

Proton was originally owned in majority by HICOM, with minority stakes being held by Mitsubishi Group members. By 2005, Mitsubishi had divested their stake in Proton to Khazanah Nasional, and in 2012, Proton was fully acquired by DRB-HICOM. Proton has been the owner of Lotus Cars since 1996. In May 2017, DRB-HICOM announced plans to sell a 49.9% stake in Proton and a 51% stake in Lotus to Geely Automobile Holdings. [1]

Proton, predominantly reliant on its domestic market, is presently undergoing a transformation process as part of a long-term turnaround plan, with hopes of returning to profitability and regaining an international presence.

History

1980s

The first generation Proton Saga. More than 1.2 million units were sold between 1985 and 2008. [3]

The concept of a National Car was conceived in 1979 by then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, now Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, with the goal of enhancing Malaysian industry. [4] The National Car Project was approved by the Cabinet in 1982, leading to the founding of Proton on 7 May 1983. It was wholly owned by the government of Malaysia through Khazanah Nasional at its creation. It was headed by its founder, Dr. Mahathir.

Proton approached Mitsubishi Motors between 1983 and 1984 and brokered a joint venture between both companies for the production of the first Malaysian car. The result of the collaboration was the Proton Saga, which launched on 9 July 1985. [5] It was based on the second generation 1983 Mitsubishi Lancer Fiore 4-door saloon and powered by a 1.3-litre Mitsubishi Orion 4G13 engine. The first Proton Saga to roll off the production line in Shah Alam is preserved in the Muzium Negara as a symbol of the beginning of the Malaysian automotive industry. Sales of the new Saga outstripped supply and Proton struggled to meet the growing demand, but by mid-1986 it had captured a 64% majority domestic market share in the Below 1600cc segment. [6] Later in October 1987, a hatchback variant called the Proton Saga Aeroback was launched and featured a more powerful 1.5L Mitsubishi 4G15 engine and a redesigned rear-end. Proton entered the United Kingdom in March 1989 with the Saga saloon and hatchback duo, where the Malaysian company set the record for the "Fastest Selling Make of New Car Ever to Enter the United Kingdom". [7] Proton's sales declined during the late 1980s as a result of the worldwide economic recession, and the lack of technical expertise in Proton's management. [8] Kenji Iwabuchi, a former Mitsubishi Motors executive, was appointed as the managing director of Proton in 1988. [9] In the decade that followed, there were significant developments both domestically and globally.

1990s

The Proton Saga Iswara saloon, widely used as Malaysian taxis in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Proton Wira saloon. Over 952,216 units were sold in around 65 countries worldwide. [10]
The Proton Satria GTi, widely regarded as the best Proton car ever produced.
The first generation Proton Perdana, then the company's most premium offering.

On 15 August 1992, the Proton Saga Iswara was launched. It shares the older Mitsubishi platform used in the original Proton Saga, but its exterior and interior styling are unique to Proton. The Saga Iswara was widely used as taxicabs in Malaysia during the 1990s and 2000s, and many continue in service. On 21 May 1993 the Proton Wira was introduced, a car which was better equipped and larger than the Saga and Saga Iswara. The Wira is based on the fourth-generation 1991 Mitsubishi Lancer and was sold in a four-door saloon guise at launch. The Proton Wira Aeroback, a five-door hatchback variant featuring a Proton-designed rear-end joined the range in 1994. The Wira saloon and hatchback shared six different engines by 1996, all of which were sourced from Mitsubishi Motors. The engines included the 4G13 1.3L and 4G15 1.5L carried over from the Proton Saga, the newer 4G92 1.6L, 4G93 SOHC and DOHC 1.8L and the 4D68 2.0L diesel. The Wira was the first Proton car to be produced in right-hand drive (RHD) and left-hand drive (LHD) configurations, and remains the only Proton car made available with a diesel engine. [11]

In 1995, Proton launched the three-door Proton Satria hatchback and the two-door Proton Putra coupé in 1997, both of which are based on the Wira platform and powered by the same range of Mitsubishi engines offered in the Wira, with the exception of the 2.0L diesel. The Proton Wira saloon and hatchback, and the Proton Satria and Putra were aggressively exported and marketed across the European Union and Middle East during the 1990s. The Proton Perdana, a premium D-segment saloon, was launched in 1995. It is based on the seventh generation 1992 Mitsubishi Eterna and was fitted with Mitsubishi's 4G63 2.0-litre l4 engine. It was offered with the superior 177bhp 6A12 DOHC 2.0L V6 engine after 1999. The Perdana remains the only D-segment, V6-powered car to be commercially produced by Proton. A Citroën AX-based 1.1-litre five-door supermini called the Proton Tiara debuted in 1996. It was the result of a joint venture between Proton and PSA Peugeot Citroën, a collaboration which was later abandoned after the death of Proton's then CEO, Tan Yahaya Ahmad in 1997.

On 30 October 1996, Proton acquired an 80% stake in the British company, Lotus Group International Limited, valued at £51 million. [12] The controlling interest was purchased from A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, then also the owner of Bugatti. Proton's stake in Lotus was increased to 100% in 2003. [13] Lotus has been involved in the development of suspension and handling elements of all Proton cars launched since 1996. The Proton Satria GTi, widely regarded as the best Malaysian car ever produced, owes much of its success to Lotus' contributions. [14]

2000s

The Proton Waja, the first indigenously designed Proton car.
The Proton GEN•2, the first model to be offered with Proton's CamPro engine

The Proton Waja, the company's first indigenously designed model, was launched in August 2000.It has the Mitsubishi 4G18 engine/Campro 1.6/Campro CPS 1.6 engines It set in stone Proton's new direction in business and marked the end of Proton's extensive reliance on other car manufacturers for vehicle platforms and parts. However, the Waja lagged behind its main competitors and failed to gain the support of customers in the domestic market. The Waja also marked the downfall of the Proton marque, and inadvertently lead to the rise of Perodua, the second Malaysian vehicle manufacturer. In 2002, Proton introduced the Jumbuck, a ute based on the Proton Wira platform and thus far the only Proton model to enjoy significantly more popularity in its export markets (specifically Australia) than domestically. The Proton Gen-2 was launched in late 2004. It was the first Proton car equipped with the Malaysian-made Campro engine.

The advanced RM1.8 billion (USD$580 million) Proton Tanjung Malim manufacturing plant in the Malaysian state of Perak commenced operation in November 2003. [15] The new plant had been projected to open in August 1998, but it was deferred due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. [16] However, it was revived in 2001 and completed in late 2003 instead. [17] [18] The new 1,280 acre plant was also developed as part of the Proton City project, which would span 4,000 acres of land in Tanjung Malim and consist of residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and recreational areas. [19] The plant has an annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, but could be expanded to 1 million units in the future. The Proton Tanjung Malim plant complements the original Proton plant in operation since 1985, located in Shah Alam, Selangor. [20] Despite a combined production capacity of around 350,000 units, both plants are underutilised with just 52,235 and 114,645 units produced at the Tanjung Malim and Shah Alam plants in 2011 respectively. [19]

On 7 July 2004, Proton purchased a 57.57% stake in MV Agusta S.p.A of Italy, valued at €70 million. Proton failed to reverse the misfortunes of MV Agusta and sold the marque to Gevi S.p.A in December 2005 for €1, with Gevi assuming the €139.44 million debt carried over from MV Agusta. [21]

The second generation Proton Persona, the successor to the Proton Wira saloon.

The latter half of the 2000s marked Proton's comeback in the domestic market, which was then dominated by newer and better Toyota-based models from Perodua. On 15 August 2007, Proton launched the Persona saloon, the long overdue replacement for the best-selling Proton Wira saloon. The Persona was based on an extended version of the 2004 Proton Gen-2 hatchback platform and shared most of its external appearance, albeit priced around RM10,000 less with large overall improvements in terms of ergonomics and functionality. [22] Despite the similarities with the Gen-2, the Persona was an instant hit in Malaysia, with 19,840 units sold in the first three months following its launch. [23] The much anticipated second generation Proton Saga was launched on 18 January 2008. [24] Previously, the first generation Proton Saga was Proton's first and most successful model, having a 23-year-long lifespan, the longest of all Proton models to date. The new Saga maintained its legacy, and turned out to be a great sales success for Proton with over 23,000 bookings in under two weeks since launch. [25] It is consistently ranked as Proton's best-selling product in terms of annual sales volume, placing 3rd in 2008, and 2nd between 2009 and 2012 in the Malaysian market, beaten only by its archrival, the Perodua MyVi. [26] [27] [28] Proton made history again when it introduced the Exora, Malaysia's first 7-seater MPV on 15 April 2009. [29] It was based on Proton's next generation P2 platform and satisfied the demand for budget 7-seaters in the domestic market, which had been monopolised by the Toyota Avanza and Nissan Grand Livina. It has since been consistently positioned in the Top 10 best-selling vehicles in Malaysia. [26] [27] [28] The Proton Exora, Persona and Saga marked the rise of a new Proton after almost a decade of declining sales and loss in its domestic market.

2010s

The Proton Exora, the company's first 7-seat MPV.

In December 2008, Proton resumed product collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors. [30] Under the agreement, Proton gained the rights to rebadge the 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer to be sold exclusively in the Malaysian market. The result of the collaboration was the Proton Inspira, which launched on 10 November 2010. It also marked a return to closer ties between Proton and Mitsubishi, the Japanese company which was instrumental in Proton's foundation in the 1980s. [31] Proton showcased the EMAS concept hybrid city cars at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. [32] They were designed by Italdesign Giugiaro and related to the Lotus Ethos, a similar concept car from Proton's British subsidiary.

The Proton Prevé, the first 5-Star ANCAP safety rated car from Malaysia.

The long-awaited turbocharged inline-four petrol engine from Proton was revealed at the 2010 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show. [33] Officially known as the 1.6L CamPro CFE, it is capable of producing power and torque figures of 138 bhp (103 kW) at 5,000 rpm and 205 N·m at 2,000–4,000 rpm respectively, comparable to a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine, while achieving better fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse emissions. [34]

In January 2012, Proton was acquired by DRB-HICOM, a Malaysian conglomerate in a transaction between Khazanah Nasional and DRB-HICOM which totalled RM1.2 billion. [35] The Proton Prevé, the company's latest saloon car was unveiled on 16 April 2012. [36] [37] It became the first Proton car, and to an extent, the first Malaysian car to be awarded the full 5-star safety rating in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) of Australia and New Zealand. [38] In December 2012, Proton acquired all of Petronas' E01 engine technologies in addition to associated technology patents at a cost of RM63 million. [39] The deal encompassed a family of naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2-litre engines to complement Proton's own CamPro 1.3L N/A, 1.6L N/A and 1.6L turbo engines.

On 17 August 2013, Proton launched the Suprima S, the hatchback complement to the Prevé saloon. [40] It became the second 5-star ANCAP rated Proton and the first to offer extensive standard safety features in its domestic market. On 11 December 2013, the second generation Proton Perdana was finally unveiled after a three-year gap in the nameplate's production. [41] The new Perdana is a badge engineered eighth generation Honda Accord and is for exclusive sale to Malaysian civil servants and government officials. [41]

The Proton Iriz was unveiled on 25 September 2014 as the company's first B-segment 5-door hatchback. [42] The new Iriz competes directly against the Perodua Myvi in its domestic market.

On 18 January 2016, Proton unveiled their all-new four-cylinder GDI/TGDI and three-cylinder VVT engines. [43] The new engines, of which there are six in total, are being developed in collaboration with Ricardo and Lotus Engineering, and are slated to enter production by late 2017. [43]

Proton unveiled their new logo in February 2016, and appointed a new CEO and Deputy CEO in April. [44] [45] The government had also granted Proton a RM1.5 billion soft loan in mid 2016. [46] The loan came with a number of conditions, including a mandatory tie-up with a foreign automobile company in the near future. Several companies have expressed interest, including Suzuki, Škoda, Groupe PSA, Renault and Geely. [47]

Proton had introduced four new models in 2016. The new Perdana launched on 14 June, [48] followed by the new Persona on 23 August, [49] the new Saga on 28 September, [50] and the new Ertiga on 24 November. [51] The launch of four new Proton models within the span of six months was unprecedented in the company's history.

On 24 May 2017, parent company DRB-HICOM announced plans to sell a 49.9% stake in Proton to Geely Automobile Holdings. [1] [52] Additionally, DRB-HICOM intend to sell a 51% controlling-stake in Lotus to Geely, and the remaining 49% stake to Etika Automotive. [53] The definitive agreement will be signed in July 2017. Proton had owned Lotus since 1996, and largely struggled to turn the fortunes of the sports car maker around. Nonetheless, in late 2016, Lotus announced their first operating profit in over 40 years. [54] Their presence in Proton is said to not affect Japanese auto manufacturers due to being in the market for a very long time. [55]