As is to be expected from an announcement of this magnitude, the tying up of Geely as Proton’s foreign strategic partner is lined with more than one intriguing sub-plot. One of the many sub-plots in this instance concerns the potential utilization of Proton’s Tanjung Malim plant for the assembly of Volvo vehicles.
In his speech, Second Minister of Finance YB Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said, “On top of producing models together at the factory in Malaysia, the Tanjung Malim plant will also be assembling Volvo cars.”
How soon can we expect to see Tanjung Malim-built Volvo Cars then? The answer is not so soon, if at all.
One of the stated aims of the Geely-Proton partnership is for Tanjung Malim to be the Geely Group’s development and manufacturing hub for right-hand drive vehicles. Whilst there is no doubt that the possibility of assembling Volvo Cars were mentioned in the discussion, the path to such an eventuality will be anything but straight forward.
For starters, Volvo is fiercely proud of its existing Shah Alam facility, one of only six worldwide and the only one outside of either Europe or China. Established in 1968, it is the oldest automotive plant in Malaysia with nearly fifty years of history. It is currently the only Volvo plant outside Sweden entrusted to assemble the second-generation XC90.
Currently, the plant’s output caters not only for the Malaysian market but is being exported to Thailand as well. Firm plans are already in place for the plant to begin exporting Volvo Cars to Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan by the end of the year.
Volvo had recently invested RM20 million to expand its annual production capacity in Shah Alam from 1,500 to 5,000 units by 2020. By that time, the company is expecting to export 75 percent of its production volume.
Earlier, however, it was reported (but unverified) that Geely had plans to make Tanjung Malim its regional assembly hub for right-hand drive Lynk & Co vehicles that happen to utilize Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform. The CMA platform will also underpin Volvo’s new-generation 40-series compact vehicle family.
Company representatives of Volvo Car Malaysia have offered no comment to our queries on this matter.