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Zero to hero: A Proton mega-dealership in Malaysia.

Proton seeks to gain a quality reputation as Savvy forces dealer network expansion

Proton logo24 Mar 2006

PROTON Cars Australia (PCA) is working on building the Malaysian brand’s reputation from "nothing" to one that stands for "quality, value-for-money, good-handling motoring".

PCA managing director John Startari admitted to GoAuto last week that below-par quality was an issue the car-maker has had to deal with, however, he was adamant that the intervention of German quality assurance group TUV was working.

He was also refreshingly blunt about his assessment of Proton and how it will sell a new marketing message to buyers that its cars have in fact improved, particularly given to lacklustre quality in the overpriced Waja.

"The research we’ve done shows that Proton doesn’t stand for anything at this point in time, which is a huge disadvantage - and it’s an advantage too - to where we’re going," he said.

Despite Proton operating in Australia for a decade and being a low-volume brand, Mr Startari believes there are no preconceived ideas in the marketplace that Proton cars are cheap and nasty and not a good purchase proposition.

"The perception of Proton isn’t negative at this point in time," he said. "By getting this car (Savvy) out to the masses, and (with) the future product that’s coming, we believe we’re going to stamp our reputation as quality, value-for-money, good-handling motoring."He said the Savvy light car was important as it had the potential to be a high-volume player for the importer.

"We’ve come a long way from the Waja to where we are today."Dealer expansion set to continue apace
PROTON will expand its national retail network to 38 dealerships when three new franchises open in both Sydney and Melbourne over the next few months as it works towards a total of 60 over the next five years.

Proton Cars Australia general manager of sales and marketing Steve Thomas said the addition of new major metropolitan dealers was vital to Proton’s push into the country’s most important sales areas.

"Our objective is to appoint three new dealers in Sydney and three in Melbourne over the next few months," he said.

Although he would not divulge further details, he said the company was "close to making those announcements".

A new dealer is also planned for Gosford, north of Sydney.

"The other thing we’ve done is we’ve allocated significant resources to marketing," he said.

Mr Thomas said Proton’s growth was "really about making us sustainable and making sure our dealer network is profitable".

"The other thing we’ve done is that we’ve formed a committee for export markets," he said. "We’re working closely with the UK and South Africa and anyone else that will listen to us that will help drive the business forward from an export perspective."As part of its five-year plan, Proton Malaysia aims to export 100,000 vehicles a year by 2009/2010. Last year it exported 16,147, and this financial year it is forecasting 30,000 exports.

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