Camouflaged mules of the Proton X70 have been spied testing on Pakistani roads, leading to the speculation that Malaysia’s favourite SUV will be joining their local lineup as the second model offering after the Proton Saga.
Local motoring website CarSpiritPK reported that multiple mules have been brought in for extensive testing on public roads, ahead of an anticipated 2021 launch, according to their sources.
The X70 then should join the Proton Saga – both of which will be locally-assembled and distributed (at some point) by Proton’s Pakistani partner Al-Haj Automotive. Proton and Al-Haj Automotive formally entered a joint venture agreement on 29th August 2018, with the group being appointed as the sole distributor for Proton vehicles in Pakistan.
In March 2019 – Proton announced a first-ever CKD assembly plant for Proton vehicles, which will be owned and operated by Al-Haj Automotive. The new CKD assembly plant, is to be built in Karachi on a Greenfield site with an initial investment of USD30 million. The operation will create 2,000 direct employment opportunities in its first three years of operations and 20,000 indirect jobs.
The CKD plant is expected to commence operations before the end of 2020, however, it’s anyone’s guess if the pandemic might have slowed progress thus far. Al-Haj will leverage on its current dealerships while developing standalone Proton 3S/4S facilities. Fully imported (CBU) vehicles will be sold initially before CKD units are made available.
CBU units of the Saga were slated to be sold as early as the second half of 2020.
The recently launched 2020 Proton X70 marked the start of a full-fledged local assembly. Other major highlights include the fitment of Geely’s in-house developed (wet-type) 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that’s lighter, more advanced, delivers about a second quicker to 100km/h sprint time from rest (9.5 seconds), and promises improved fuel economy (a claimed 13% reduction).
Though there have been reports that Pakistan may receive the smaller 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder mated to Geely’s new 7-speed double-clutch transmission (as will be supplied in the Proton X50), this remains to be seen, as the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine in the X70 would also seem a compelling package for its benefits of power. Another consideration is the drivetrain – all-wheel drive SUVs are popular in Pakistan given their more rugged driving conditions.
When the X70 goes on sale in Pakistan, it will go up against the likes of the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage – both of which are notably offered with 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated powerplants. This gives the more powerful 1.8-litre X70 a leg up in terms of performance in this new exciting marketplace.
In 2017, Proton unveiled the seven stars strategy, a roadmap to achieve their long term goals which include a comprehensive revamp of their product range to target annual sales of 400k units by 2027. Export sales and CKD plant establishments will be at the heart of these growth plans, their operations in Pakistan are the first in South Asia.