Gearing up for low-end push
Proton is accelerating the launch of its new sedan for under $13,000, writes STUART MARTIN
THE possibility of tripling sales within the next two years is behind a radical shift in direction for Proton. The Malaysian carmaker will rush out a new model and launch entry-level price-point variants of its existing range in Australia.
The company has brought forward the introduction of what it claims will be Australia’s cheapest sedan — less than $13,000 — to October instead of next year.
Proton Car’s Australian managing director John Startari says the car’s compliance process was completed early and he sees no point in delaying new product.
‘‘We’re offering a four-door, whereas many are three-door. You’d argue that the buyer, if they can get more for less, might switch to a sedan if the price is right,’’ he says.
Startari says the entry-level models of Satria Neo, Gen2 and Persona will be introduced before the end of the year and form a big part of the company’s sales-increase strategy.
‘‘We’re looking to triple our sales over two years on the back of a substantial increase in marketing and the introduction of a more price-competitive range. We see the volume growth at the lower end,’’ he says.
Brand awareness and its dealer network have been two of the brand’s main issues, something Startari will address.
‘‘We’ve parted company with 17 of our 41 dealers by mutual consent,’’ he says. ‘‘We went to them with our plan, which required some investment on their part, and those that didn’t want to do it agreed to cease trading.’’
Startari says he’s recruited seven new dealers and aims to have 50 dealers nationally by the end of 2011.
‘‘We should be selling 4000-5000 a year,’’ he says. ‘‘It comes down to awareness ... there are other, more visible, brands out there.
‘‘Clearly new low-cost brands will be entering the market in coming months.
‘‘However, Proton’s strength is that it’s been in this market for almost 15 years and is a factory-owned operation with the full backing of our parent company in Malaysia.’’
‘‘The next 12 months will tell if we have it right or horribly wrong.’’