MAKING PROTON NO. 1 AGAIN
Chinese firm will help Proton become a top automaker and make Proton its right-hand drive manufacturing hub, says DRB-Hicom group managing director
GEELY, which acquired a 49.9 per cent stake in Proton, is ‘not just another investor’. DRB-Hicom’s group managing director says the global giant, which has a proven track record of turning around ailing companies, is well-endowed to offer Proton the best opportunity to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the country and to gain a place among the top 3 carmakers in the region.
PROTON Holdings’ deal with Zhejiang Geely Holding Co Ltd was not a sellout of the homegrown brand, and it was the Chinese automaker’s plans for Proton that won over DRB-Hicom Bhd.
DRB-Hicom group managing director Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar said Proton needed a foreign strategic partner (FSP) that understood what the carmaker wanted and needed.
“I must emphasise that the process we went through was an international bidding process. It took more than 12 months with thorough analysis, site visits and detailed evaluation criteria to identify a FSP that had the best fit for Proton.
“In short, we needed to find a partner that understood what we wanted and what we needed, and was willing to take the journey with us towards our goals and aspirations,” he told the New Sunday Times.
Syed Faisal shot down critics who equated the sale of the 49.9 per cent stake in Proton with selling out the national carmaker.
On Thursday, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad lamented that the automaker was sold off to foreigners.
The former Proton chairman said the sale of Proton’s stake by DRB-Hicom Bhd to the Chinese carmaker was probably the beginning of an “inexorable process”.
Proton, Syed Faisal said, was a private entity ever since DRBHicom acquired Malaysia’s first auto brand in 2012, adding that the acquisition from Khazanah Nasional was an “outright purchase”, thus removing the “golden share” from the government.
“Yes, Proton is the first national car brand by virtue of it being the first car marque that Malaysia produced back in 1985. By the same token, DRB-Hicom retaining 50.1 per cent equity means that we still own the majority stake and the brand remains a national brand, a national car.
“But inviting Geely Holding to take up a 49.9 per cent stake in Proton does not equate to us selling out,” he stressed.
Syed Faisal said Proton was now a private company with a global alliance, adding that forming an automotive alliance was a normal practice, just as India’s Tata group now owned Jaguar and Land Rover.
This meant that Proton had a fair chance of making a comeback in Malaysia, he said, enlarging its footprint globally beginning with Asean, he added.
“We believe DRB-Hicom could not get a better partner than Geely. One day in the not too distant future, Proton will be a brand that Malaysians will once again be proud to call one of their own.”
Syed Faisal said DRB-Hicom was impressed with Geely Holding ’s credentials, and that its boldness in acquiring businesses across the globe was a “study of business acumen in itself ”.
Geely Holding, he added, owned 100 per cent of Volvo Cars, the entire stake of The London Taxi Company and made more than one million cars globaly.
“(Geely) has proved to be a committed partner in all its ventures, helping each of the companies turn around with appropriate levels of financial investment, and a heavy dose of injection of technology and innovation.”
He described Geely Holding as the “best suitor” and said the company had agreed to retain the nameplate and reclaim Proton’s No 1 spot in the country, with a strategic vision that was “very aligned” with DRBHicom’s.
“In order to move fast into the market, part of the agreement is to inject a sports utility vehicle (SUV) platform into Proton and Geely offered their best-selling SUV to us without even batting an eyelid.
“This will enable Proton to enter a new segment and a segment that has grown tremendously over the last few years,” Syed Faisal added.
He said Geely Holding would provide access to its array of green technology, among other things, and Proton would become the right-hand drive manufacturing hub for Geely-branded cars.
“Proton Tanjung Malim plant will assemble Volvo cars. This is a boon for Proton, for sure. Consumers will then have higher confidence, that if a Volvo car can come out from our plants, this means that Proton cars are also of high quality.
“On top of this, we earn an assembly fee together with Geely Holding.”
He said Geely Holding had set an ambitious target of 500,000 units in annual sales by 2027, doubling the number of Malaysian employees at Proton.
“This is an important element for us as we wish to be the Top three in Asean markets under the brand of Proton.
“They wish for us to grow as one of the biggest autoplayers in the region; not just exporting cars to other countries.”
DRB-Hicom group managing director Datuk Seri Syed
Finance Minister II Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani (centre) witnessing the exchange of documents between DRB-Hicom group managing director Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar (second from left) and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co executive vice-president and chief financial officer Daniel Li in Putrajaya on Wednesday. They are flanked by DRBHicom group director of corporate strategy planning and business development Datuk Khalid Abdol Rahman (left) and Geely Holding Group international business vicepresident Nathan Yu.