Proton has just put pen to paper, formalising a deal that would see them become the general distributor of smart automobiles in Malaysia and Thailand.
The ceremony which was witnessed by the smart team virtually saw Proton's Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Roslan Abdullah, sign on the dotted line, which now allows Proton to sell and service smart automobiles in the country.
First smart vehicle for sale in Malaysia - Q4 2023
According to Proton, this will pave the way for the introduction of new energy vehicles by the national car maker. The first smart model to be sold in Malaysia by Proton during the initial phase of the collaboration is set for early Q4 of 2023 and 2024 for Thailand.
"We aim to sell at least 1,000 units of the smart #1 annually and 10,000 units by 2027. We aim to gear up and have a preview car by May 2023, which we will then open the booking books shortly after," said Abdullah.
"We will spend the time between now and then determining which features are suitable for the local market and studying what its competitors have on offer. By doing this, we are confident we can offer the right product for Malaysians," continued the deputy CEO.
Although the main highlight of the ceremony is obviously the finalisation of the partnership, there's a bigger picture in play as the local car maker has also announced that it intends to invest in a charging network by collaborating with local charging providers to provide and install charging units for customers.
Proton to invest in EV charging network
"We are currently communicating with seven or eight companies regarding charging facilities as we aim to grow the charging infrastructure evenly throughout urban and rural areas," said Yusri Yusuf, Proton's Senior Director of Strategy.
Furthermore, Proton intends to mimic smart's international retail model, where there will be a heavy emphasis on integrated digital lifestyle and other elements that will marry customer preferences with a connected digital solution encompassing journey planning, charging availability, and even purchase considerations.
The introduction of smart in Malaysia will also be used to attract young talents. With the rapid shift in job preference for new workers, Proton will use its long-term plans for sustainability and energy efficiency as well as increasing its ESG scores to appeal to the next generation of automotive industry workers.
“Today marks a big step for Proton’s entry into the new energy vehicle market. The first phase of business with smart is focused on retailing but it provides us with valuable knowledge and experience on not only how to service and charge EVs but also how to transform the way we interact with our customers. The move into this market segment will also help drive PROTON’s move towards being more environmentally friendly in all facets of our operations as we work to help Malaysia achieve its carbon neutrality target by 2050,” said Dr Li Chunrong, Proton's Chief Executive Officer.
smart's new generation of electric vehicles is designed by Mercedes-Benz's global design team with engineering led by the smart R&D team. Currently, the smart#1 has a starting price tag of RM119,600 in China, which tops out at RM149,300 for the range-topping model.
All models are fitted with the same 66 kWh lithium-ion battery and are powered by a rear-mounted electric motor that produces 272PS and 343Nm of torque. The smart#1 can go from 0-100km/h in 6.7 secs and has a charging time of seven and half hours to get it from 0-80% (7.5 kW AC wallbox). The car can also accept up to 150 kW of DC fast charging, which can juice up the battery in just half an hour.