MELAKA, April 11 — Proton's facility in Tanjung Malim, Perak will be one of the global research and development centres for China automotive giant Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd (Geely).
DRB Hicom managing director Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar told a media briefing in Melaka yesterday that this was part of the agreement between DRB Hicom and Geely when DRB Hicom divested 49.9 per cent of its shares to Geely for RM460.3 million in 2017.
“When we signed the definitive agreement with Geely we emphasised that Proton has to be one of the global research and development centres for Geely.
“And one of the areas we also wanted to look at and agreed with Geely is to become the right hand drive hub for Geely cars, because Geely cars are left hand drive. Geely cars is supposed to be for nearby left hand drive markets, we want to be right hand drive market,” said Syed Faisal.
He also explained that Proton's priority after Geely's purchase was to roll out the first product which was the Proton X70 before focussing on research and development during DRB Hicom's media escapade.
Syed Faisal believed that a lot of work can be done to develop Proton's own engine through the collaboration with Geely, who he said have superior technology when compared to other original equipment manufacturers (OEM).
To ensure high level talent, Proton has also sent 200 engineers to Geely's automotive centre in Ningbo, China.
“That is something we insisted, we want to step up our Proton engineers level of knowledge, each batch we send 40 [engineers] and then after they are done, a new batch sent is there.
“Ningbo is trade secret centre for Geely... for them to have our Proton engineers as part of the team, it's good for Proton. X70 has done quite well but shouldn't rest on our laurels,” said Syed Faisal.
Through Geely, Proton's latest model now has a relatively high artificial intelligence (AI) responding to voice commands which Syed Faisal compared to Google Talk, Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri.
Moving forward, Proton will be shutting down its Shah Alam plant in the next five years and make a complete move to Proton City in Tanjung Malim.
This, predicted Syed Faisal will create a new economic chain there with vendors and businesses moving in to supply new components for Proton cars, including cutting edge technology.
“When the volume becomes higher there will be interest for people producing these types of components to be here. The higher the volume, more vendors and businesses want to be with you. That's why the volume gain is critical for Proton so we can bring these players in.
“We have 800 acres unutilised in Tanjung Malim's Proton City. The whole thing belongs to DRB Hicom but the plant belongs to Proton. Our interest is to create enough volume there, that's why our deal with Geely is to shut down Shah Alam plant in five years and move it to Tanjung Malim.
“And once have the scale, we will invite vendors with these components,” said Syed Faisal.