KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 ― Analysts are positive on Proton Holdings Bhd’s outlook following a pent-up demand for its all-new and refreshed models and see no reason why it cannot return to the black next year.
The carmaker reclaimed its position as the country’s second best-selling automotive brand in April 2019 for the first time since February 2016, with its sales surging by 75 per cent year-on year, or 14.1 per cent month-on-month (m-o-m), to 7,011 units in April 2019.
This was achieved despite a downturn in the total industry volume that contracted by 6.2 per cent m-o-m, making Proton the only automotive brand ranked in the top five to record a positive growth.
Automotive analyst and automotive news portal Funtasticko.net editor Shamsul Yunos said historically, Proton is operationally in the black if they could sell around 8,000 units a month, but under DRB Hicom Bhd, there were some reductions in staffing and therefore overhead.
“If they can maintain customer confidence in their products and after-sales service, then there is a high likelihood that they can return to profitability around 2020 and I would wait until later this year to see if the X70 and the new models have been successful in turning around Proton’s image,” he told Bernama.
Strong sales performances by Proton X70 and Saga were reportedly to be the main drivers for the January-April 2019 achievement. Sales also received a boost following the official launch of the 2019 Proton Iriz and Persona on April 23.
Local automotive analyst Lizam Ridzuan said the joint venture with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd (Geely) since 2017 has triggered a lot of transformation in Proton, including marketing styles and product offerings that suit buyers' demands.
He said several more new models, as well as facelifts on Saga and Exora that are set for launch this year would enable Proton to regain control over their sales in the country.
“Models with advanced features and leading in segments such as Hi Proton's voice command function give advantages at a highly competitive price, making it a worthwhile choice.
“Proton now has 75 3S and 4S (sales, service and spare parts and, body and paint service) outlets nationwide as a preparatory effort in expanding the market and better after-sales service to customers. These measures are seen as a proactive effort for Proton to return as the country's number one car manufacturer in the coming years,” said Lizam.
Shamsul and Lizam were met at a media drive to experience the improved handling, safety and the integrated cockpit information system (GKUI) features in the 2019 Iriz and Persona from here to Tanjong Jara, Terengganu recently.
The B-segment hatchback and family sedan have been thoroughly revised for the 2019 models. The revised styling, improvements to over 300 parts, as well as first-in-class smart features are aimed to set them apart from competitors.
Meanwhile, Carlist.my Head of Content Hans Cheong felt that Proton’s return to second spot in April was partly due to disruption in deliveries of the Honda Civic between February and April.
“In terms of cumulative sales, Honda still leads but Proton has significantly closed the gap from over 10,000 units in the same four-month period last year to just several thousand units this year,” he said.
Cheong opined both Persona and Iriz models have been significantly improved but it is left to be seen if the new infotainment will sway buyers in this segment, which is traditionally very price sensitive, where practical considerations like fuel consumption, ease of maintenance and reliability are the main purchase drivers. ― Bernama