Proton Staff, Where Are You Going?

The Malaysia government has decided to call off PROTON’s possible partnership with foreign investors – Volkswagon and General Motors (GM). The decision saw Proton’s share price plummeted to a record low. Earlier, many people were expecting that either Volkswagon or General Motors will sign an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) which can in turn help turning the national car maker around to profitability.

According to major presses and news, such move was labeled necessary as Proton is said to be improving their management and financial situation that will yield results in 2009. That long, meh?

Now, those Proton engineers may be thinking of moving to Toyota, or perhaps Perodua, where many of the employees received up to 6 months bonuses last year. This is because when you work with a company that is making loss, your year end reward and bonuses (if any) will be the size of a peanut.

Forget all those overseas trips.

However, it is also said there Proton will be looking for partnership when their effort of turning the company around will be fruitful. Volkswagon had gone through 4 rounds of negotiations with Proton and I do not know if there will still be keen to enter another round of talks.

The History of Proton, the National Car Maker

Proton or Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional started in 1980s when the Japanese Mitsubishi Motors leveraged its expertise to develop the so-called Malaysian car by manufacturing the then Proton Saga at its first plant in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Future seemed to be bright where proton was the only local player in car making and soon we saw more and more models coming up like Tiara, Wira, Waja, Juara (is this a car?) and so on to the latest model, Persona.

Some of the models e.g. Waja were even imported overseas, mainly in the United Kingdom. Besides, Proton also enters the Middle East market.

Proton then made a major move by acquiring Lotus Engineering, a UK-based automotive company that gave them access to more engineering and technical expertise. During this time Proton was under the leadership of the late Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 1997.

New Perdana series and Gen-2 model was developed and new plant in Tanjong Malim was unleashed. Savvy was born. The old Tiara was given a facelift and a brand new name (Neo).

However, as the proverb says; langit tak selalunya cerah (the sky is not always bright), Proton started to see major drop of sales since 2005, with little recovery made until today. Proton’s lacklustre performance allowed Malaysia’s second car maker, Perodua (which by the way was established in 1993) took over as the number one national car maker.

Many people speculated that if PERODUA targets exactly the same market as Proton, then Proton will be out of business, and rots to die.

In a dramatic move, former Proton CEO, Tengku Mahaleel was removed, and new Managing Director was named. Ironically, the new MD, Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Tahir, was the Executive Director of Perodua prior to joining Proton.

Only time will tell if Syed Zainal will be considered as the white night, or a scape goat.

3 Replies to “Proton Staff, Where Are You Going?”

  1. Erk “white night” ?? Shouldn’t it be “white knight” ??

    Btw, Neo is not a new Tiara. Neo is a new Satria, hence the name Satria Neo. Savvy was said to be the Tiara replacement model.

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