KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — Proton Holdings Bhd delivered 669 units to overseas distributors in May 2021, making it the group’s best export sales month since March 2013 — a span of 98 months.
In a statement today, the national carmaker said up to the end of May, the total year-to-date (YTD) volume was at 174 per cent of the target set and only six per cent behind what was achieved for the whole of 2020.
Proton said its export sales growth was powered by growing demand in several key markets, some new and some where its vehicles had been sold for decades.
“For example, Pakistan is a new market for the company, but for the first five months of 2021, it was by far the best performer.
“On the other hand, Brunei, which started selling Proton vehicles in 1987, was the third biggest export market by volume this year and in May, importers PAD Motors had the best sales month in the company’s history,” it said.
Alpha Ezz El-Arab, the importer and distributor for Proton cars in Egypt, had already received 350 units this year, making it Proton’s second largest export market, the automotive firm said.
International sales director Steven Xu said at the beginning of the year, Proton’s plan for 2021 was to aggressively grow its export sales volume.
“Despite international restrictions and the rising cost of shipping caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we were confident of being able to meet our goals due to the sales plans of our importers and the appeal of our products.
“After five months, however, we are close to doubling the volume target set, which hopefully is a sign for more success in 2021,” he said.
As Malaysia undergoes a strict lockdown to lower COVID-19 infections, retail operations of automotive companies have been curtailed with showrooms required to remain shut.
“This will affect total industry volume for the next few months, but Proton remains optimistic due to the recent performance of its international sales division,” the company said.
Meanwhile, with sales also growing domestically, Xu said the assembly of Proton models in its export markets was vital for the company to achieve its long-term goals.
Following the commencement of local assembly for the Proton Saga in Kenya, the next market to assemble cars locally will be Pakistan.
“If everything goes to plan our partner in Pakistan, Al-Haj Automotive, will begin assembly operations with the Proton Saga by the end of July or early August at its new plant in Karachi.
“The Proton X70 will be added to their production line later, and we have high hopes this development will spur sales growth in the South Asian region,” he said.
While growing sales in export markets is a reassuring sign of wider acceptance of the Proton brand and its products, the key to achieving the company’s long-term goals remains sales growth in ASEAN.
According to the statement, the region is hotly contested with many global brands having invested in production facilities that supply local and export markets as well as competition from locally grown manufacturers.
Xu said Proton’s presence in ASEAN was currently limited to Brunei but the company planned to return to the two biggest markets in the region, Thailand and Indonesia, in the “very near future.”
“For Proton to be the third best-selling brand in ASEAN, we need to have a major presence in Thailand and Indonesia.
“As the biggest automotive markets in the region, they offer enormous volume potential; but the level of competition is also very high. For both countries, we have been busy recruiting partners to build a network that ensures a viable business model and in the short term, our target is to return to Thailand in 2022,” he added.