Gear­ing up for low-end push

Pro­ton is ac­cel­er­at­ing the launch of its new sedan for un­der $13,000, writes STU­ART MARTIN

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.’’

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