While the X50 is this year's late October not-so-surprise, soaking up all the attention in the local scene, Proton’s partner Geely has been making their own moves surrounding their many electrification-focused new models.
Interestingly, it also involves the Polestar brand, the Chinese-Swedish marque that grew out of Volvo’s previous in-house performance division. It seems that there are some big plans brewing in the background, at least, according to some well-placed sources who spoke to Reuters.
Basically, there’s more planned cars than there are factories to build them, so Geely needs to devote more of its assembly lines and manpower to delivering high volume. The problem is, there aren’t enough to go around at the moment, requiring the building of another manufacturing plant that will focus nearly exclusively on electrified vehicles.
It will be operated by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group via a newly registered entity and will be based in the west side of Hangzhou city, where Geely is headquartered, boasting an annual capacity of 30,000 premium EVs across multiple brands, but it would seem that Polestar’s cars will get preferential treatment at first alongside other new high profile models such as the heavily rumoured SUV from Lotus.
This arrangement won’t last forever, though, but it does buy useful time to significantly reduce the order/delivery gap until Polestar’s own state-of-the-art dedicated facility in Chengdu (opened in 2019) is fully ramped up to take on all (if not most) of that brand’s vehicle production. Currently, only the two-door Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid is built there.
The more volume-focused and fully electric Polestar 2, meanwhile, rolls off the factory floor in Taizhou. Without this additional factory, increasing overall volume will be a major challenge given the current production pipeline constraints, especially following the confirmation that the Precept will be transitioning from concept car to full production model. There's also the Polestar 3 somewhere in the future.
As for whether Proton could benefit from the (incoming) newest EV-focused factory under Geely, that all depends on how much demand there is for hybrids and battery electric cars in Malaysia. For now, the reality is that our national automaker has no real bearing on Geely’s electrification roadmap, much less it’s ‘premium’ EVs.
A Proton version of an existing Geely electric vehicle does pose an exciting prospect as an import model to foreign markets and could start to build crucial brand recognition. However, its arrival here would be handicapped by the same duties and taxes levied against all cars not assembled locally, rendering its price point much less attractive for the average Malaysian despite it being sold on the brand’s home turf.
Alternatively, the Geely Group could otherwise find the need to invest a significant amount of additional resources to shoring up the existing manufacturing, technology, and pool of expertise within our borders to make EV production here feasible, giving Malaysia the ability to ease some of the load off their plants within China. Naturally, this would also mean hybrids and electric vehicles populating the Proton catalogue as well.
This sequence of events was more or less what allowed Volvo Car Manufacturing Malaysia to become the only other location besides Sweden where all XC90 variants can be built and even exported to neighbouring markets such as Thailand.
Still, it all starts with demand. Once it’s made clear enough that electrified variants of Proton cars are what the people want, only then will the cogs will start to spin.