Proton takes a pre-emptive strike
When Malaysia’s homegrown car maker Proton finally drove into neighbouring Thailand, Asean’s busiest automotive market last September, it tried to take a pre-emptive strike, that is, offering its ultra-low-priced models ahead of Thailand’s eco-car programme which aims to introduce inexpensive, fuel-efficient and safe small cars.
For years, Proton held the lion’s share of the market at home, the region’s biggest market for passenger cars thanks to the high tariffs on imports and non-national cars, which effectively protected Proton against the competition.
As Malaysian government delayed the tariff reduction on automotive imports, under the Common Effective Preferential Tariff scheme of the Asean Free-Trade Area (Afta), Proton dominated the local market until 2006 when it lost its leadership to Perodua, a fellow national car maker.
Proton suffered sales decline when the government finally cut the automotive tariffs even though it has continued to protect the national cars using non-tariff barriers. Since then, Proton turned to boosting its presence in maket overseas which include the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, West Asia, North Africa and South Africa.
Proton entered Indonesia before coming to Thailand. The Savvy and Gen-2 completely-built-up (CBU) are the first two models being sold here as passenger cars while the CBU Wira is being sold as a taxi in Indonesia.
Proton's first plant here in Cikarang, East Jawa is also its first Asean plant outside Malaysia, which has the capacity to assemble 8,000 completely-knocked-down (CKD) cars and currently assembles 300 units a month of the CBU Wira model.
Lately, Proton has found its way to Thailand. Among the three models making the debut at the Thailand International Motor Expo late November was the Savvy, a subcompact equipped with a 1.2-litre engine sporting a bargain price of 399,000 baht for manual transmission variant. The automatic version cost 460,000 baht, the lowest price tags on the market.
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