The fledgling partnership between Proton and Suzuki gathers pace. Following the MOU signing between the companies last June, Suzuki has swiftly withdrawn from its operations in Malaysia and has ceased local assembly of its popular Swift hatchback at the DRB-Hicom plant in Pekan, Pahang.
Suzuki’s move in withdrawing from the Malaysian market mirrors Mitsubishi Motors’ retreat from our shores after the three-diamond brand had agreed to be the technology partner to get Proton off the ground back in 1985.
The collaboration terms agreed by both companies intends to give Proton access to Suzuki's expertise in small engines as well as cars competing in the A and B segments to be utilized in the former's future product developments.
Mindful of not leaving Suzuki’s current network of dealerships in the lurch as well as the needs of 48,000 Suzuki customers across the country that will continue to require servicing of their vehicles, both companies today announced that 29 Suzuki dealerships across the country will be absorbed into Proton Edar’s network and will begin selling and servicing Proton vehicles with immediate effect.
“The rationalization of SMA’s (Suzuki Malaysia Automobile) operations was originally expected to be completed within a year but it has progressed earlier than planned to realise the next phases of the partnership. Today, I am happy to announce that the collaboration is seeing the of many exciting milestones and providing Proton with the advantage of additional dealers network, vendors, skilled manpower, platform sharing, and technology know-how,” said Dato’ Abdul Harith Abdullah, CEO of Proton.
Under the new arrangement, the 29 dealerships will concurrently display Proton and Suzuki branding. After clearing whatever remaining Suzuki vehicle in their inventory, these outlets will henceforth be retailing only Proton vehicles, but will offer servicing, spare parts, and warranty coverage for both brands. There are no plans for existing Proton dealerships, however, to extend service to Suzuki vehicles.
“Existing Suzuki car owners can rest assured their automotive needs such as the after sales services and warranty coverage with the use of genuine Suzuki parts will continue to be managed and covered. They can continue to send their cars to these outlets which are strategically located across Malaysia,” said Mr Masashi Fukuda, MD of SMA.
Moving forward, Dato’ Harith confirmed that Proton plans to launch at least four new models throughout 2016. The company hopes that these new models will inject fresh impetus to an aging line-up that struggled to move just over 100,000 cars in the whole of 2015, leaving both its Shah Alam and Tanjung Malim plants (with combined annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles) badly underutilized.
Proton’s newest model, the Iriz, has not been selling as well as expected, although demand is said to be steadily increasing. Despite collecting an average of 4,000 – 5,000 orders each month, Proton has only been able to only convert half those orders to sales, with many buyers having the loan applications rejected by the banks.