LAST_UPDATESun, 24 Jun 2018 11am

(WITH VID) PROTON 1985-2014: A Malaysian Journey

FilepicFilepicPERUSAHAAN Otomobil Nasional Berhad (PROTON) needs no introduction to all Malaysians as the flagship brand of our local car industry.  In our 57 years of independence, we have many notable achievements and our locally produced Proton car is one of them.

As we welcome our 51st Malaysia Day and reflect on Malaysia's 'birthday' when Sabah & Sarawak joining the federation, Malaysian Digest would like to take you on a journey to reflect on Proton's birth and its development into a global car industry which has helped propel Malaysia's name throughout the world.

It all starts with the father of modern Malaysia, our fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, 89, who had conceived the idea of a Malaysian made car and put in place the building blocks that would become our mainstay of our local automotive industry today.

In 1980, in his capacity then as the Minister Of Trade & Industry, Tun Mahathir had instructed the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) to analyse and formulate a strategy to develop a local automotive industry.Tun Dr. Mahathir/Pic: thesundailyTun Dr. Mahathir/Pic: thesundaily

This led to the incorporation of Proton on 7th May 1983 as a wholly owned company of the Malaysian government through Khazanah Nasional.  In collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors, Japan, the first Malaysian made car, the Proton Saga, was launched commercially in 1985.

Proton Through The Years

According to Mohd Qadafie Ibrahim, a student from the Engineering Faculty, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia, advances in technology will be the key towards propelling the local automotive industry to the next level.  It is technological advancement that will drive the industry forward to produce the next generation cars that is energy efficient and produces less pollution to reduce its carbon footprint on our earth.

"As a developing nation, Malaysia does not yet have an industrial research and development ecosystem that can produce the advances in the technology that I mentioned earlier. There are many challenges that Proton has to overcome to carve its path going forward, and I believe the pragmatic answer lies in accessing and unlocking technological innovations,“ he said when contacted by Malaysian Digest.

Another key factor in moving Proton forward lies in industrial design. We can see that Proton continues to innovate and create original designs that can capture the consumer's attention with every new model launched over the years.

However, in its haste to keep up with the latest car designs worldwide, Proton has unveiled countless new models over the years and it almost seems like there is a new model in the market every year.

The 'timeless design' approach that Proton adopts can sometimes works against its favour as new models flood the market even before the older version goes out of fashion so the overlapping demand affects sales as car buyers might not see the need to replace a car which is still seen as relevant in design," Mohd Qadafie observed.


Towards Greater International Recognition

Even with the demands of constant innovation in new design models, according to a Bernama report, Proton's recent releases, the Proton Preve and Proton Suprima S have achieved the 5 Star rating in the New Car Assessment Programme for Southeast Asia (NCAP).Proton Suprima s Pic: PaultanProton Suprima s Pic: Paultan

Chief Executive Officer of Proton Holdings Berhad, Datuk Abdul Harith Abdullah explained to Malaysian Digest that Proton continues to strive to improve customer perception and approval towards its product quality and Proton's achievements in earning international awards prove that its efforts and achievements are on track.

"We are happy to gain the recognition that the cars we produce are not only affordable but have also achieved an international level of quality and excellence in design," he added.

Proton has not taken its international success for granted but instead, has continued to strive towards greater recognition when in 2010, the Proton Exora won the Future Car Challenge that was organized by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), United Kingdom.

This competition saw the participation of all major automotive brands around the world including Toyota from Japan, Volkswagen from Germany and General Motors from USA.

In the competition, Proton Exora came in first place in the Extended Electric Vehicle category (electric cars judged on distance travelling capacity).

Charting success upon success has been the hallmark of our national car brand. According to an Utusan Malaysia report on December 2012, Proton first model, the Proton Saga, was Malaysia first step towards being a global automotive player.

The achievements recorded by Proton over the years are a testament of its  continued efforts to improve. It is with pride that we acknowledge that the Proton Saga has joined the ranks of world-famous car brands as one of the car models from a carmaker that had stayed in production longer than many other car models.

Facing Challenges Ahead

According to Proton Fan Club member, Mohammad Syahmi, 29, among the Proton car models that did not get favourable reviews from the public include the Proton Savvy and Proton Juara.

Syahmi said that Proton Savvy probably failed to gain the public's approval due to its 'toilet bowl shape' design that according to him was not all that bad.

Proton Juara/Pic: WikipediaProton Juara/Pic: Wikipedia"Proton Juara  also failed to gain public support and only stayed in production for three years." he said when met by Malaysian Digest.

Syahmi's opinion was that the Proton Juara looked like a 'refrigerator on wheels'  and remarked that it was one of the weirdest car designs ever produced by Proton. It was one of the least well received car models.

However, Proton can be proud of the new Saga model for its recognition as the second bestselling model in Malaysia in 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. It was second only after Perodua Myvi. The new Saga model is marketed as the Proton Saga BLM ( Base Lone Model ).

According to an article in the car magazine, Majalah Arena Kereta, the second generation Proton Saga which was launched in 2008 is the most well received Proton car model amongst the general public.

The second generation Proton Saga is an inspired re-invention of the pioneer Saga model first produced in 1985. Proton Saga was named after a red rosary pea (saga), a plant commonly found in our country.

The first Proton car was given its name by Ismaik Jaafar, who won the national competition to name Proton's inaugural car model and in his proposal had describe the name also representing an acronym for Safety, Achievement, Greatness and Ability.

Ismaik Jaafar, who is a pensioner, should be proud that he had contributed to history by giving Proton its first car model name.

A  Relationship Built Over TimeProton Car Club (PROCC)Proton Car Club (PROCC)

After 31 years since its founding, Proton, as Malaysia's national icon should be able to stand equal among its peers, the other national car brands around the world.

Its popularity can be seen in the setting up of the Proton Car Club (procc) in 2002 which counts over a few hundred members.

Among the objectives of the club are to foster greater friendship and cooperation amongst the Proton car community in Malaysia and to serve as a platform for Proton car owners in Malaysia.

Led by its adviser, Mohd Hifni Mohd Ghazli and  president, Mohd Rizal Abd Rahman, the club has been selected to be a brand ambassador for Proton Holdings Berhad.

According to its official web portal, as brand ambassador of Proton Holdings Berhad, it is the club's responsibility to bring the message of Proton's quality and value to the community and the outside world.

Proton, the backbone of Malaysia's automotive industry, created out of patriotism and nationalism. Happy 51st Malaysia Day.  Here, Where Love Begins.


Source: Youtube