Proton confirms that it will be launching three new models in the next two years but which will come first?
At yesterday's launch of the 2022 Proton Saga facelift (MC2), CEO Li Chunrong took the opportunity to speak on the state of the Malaysian automaker’s future vehicle roadmap, which has certainly changed since it was last seen by the public in 2019.
It’s nearly impossible to fully quantify the disruptive impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the automotive industry as a whole, but it definitely derailed Proton’s plans to introduce ‘1 New Model Every Year’.
This, compounded with the rising costs of raw materials and a persisting global semiconductor shortage, has contributed to the necessary shifts in their short-to-medium term outlook.
Though Li did not go into detail about which three models Proton were looking to launch, he did mention that their introductions will be spread across a two year period. This means that they could surface anywhere from late 2022 at the earliest to mid-2024 at the latest.
The likeliest model to kickstart this trio of launches is the rumoured X90, a bigger 7-seat brother to the X70 to cap off Proton’s range of SUVs. Not only has this been spotted (albeit in heavy camouflage) plenty of times on Malaysian roads, but has debuted as close as the Philippines, known as the Okavango. In its home turf of China, it’s known as the Haoyue.
It’s also likely that the Malaysian market will receive the car in a very similar spec to our ASEAN neighbour, sharing the same upmarket leather interior and 1.5-litre turbocharged mild-hybrid 3-cylinder petrol engine that outputs 190PS and 300Nm of torque.
Following that, perhaps it’ll be a smart move to (finally) introduce a proper replacement to Proton’s very dated B-segment sedan duo, the Saga and Persona. The obvious badge-engineered solution to this is the Geely Emgrand, a handsomely styled and decently equipped but still budget-oriented model that’s sure to invigorate buyers, built on Geely’s new BMA platform.
In the Philippines where the car was launched earlier this year, it’s powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 102PS (or 114PS in China) and 147Nm and mated to a CVT gearbox.
In third and potentially last in chronological terms, it isn’t clear what the Malaysian marque will turn to next. We do know that there are plans being made to sell the fully electric smart #1 through Proton Edar’s dealerships though it is unlikely to be badge-swapped.
Another potential contender for a 2024 launch is the overdue replacement to the Exora, which rumoured to be based on the Geely Jiaji, a large-ish MPV that was launched in China back in 2019.
There’s also the matter of a rumoured return of the Proton Perdana as rebadged Geely Preface. While this would definitely tickle some nostalgia feels, it’s uncertain if there is enough demand for a more upmarket D-segment saloon to justify its return.
Over the past couple of years, if you were itching for some new models from Proton just as they were optimistic about revealing them, the next 24 months should prove to be quite interesting.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.