It’s been a little over 100 days since Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir, a former Perodua executive was appointed as the Managing Director of Proton Holdings Bhd after a long search for a new chief executive to replace Tengku Mahaleel whose contract was not renewed.

Syed Zainal briefed the media on Tuesday on Proton’s multi-pronged strategy to turn the company around. Number one priority was to improve the quality of Proton cars. Proton quality control would no longer fall under the control of the factory but will report directly to him. Syed Zainal will be giving special attention to this thorn in Proton’s flesh. A minimum of 50 technical staff will be sent to dealers and service centers across the country to obtain feedback from customers on Proton cars. In line with the new consumer focus, delivery of Proton cars will also be done at the customer’s convenience. More customer get-togethers and activities like competitions and car clinics will be organised to build good customer relationships.

As for future models, Proton will be building a mix of self-developed cars as well as cars developed in collaboration with other car manufacturers; i.e using their platforms. These new series of cars would be developed based on consumer feedback – what people want instead of what the company feels the consumer wants. I know this is a very common rant about Proton, a lot of people think the company was executing the previous CEO’s personal dreams and building Mazda-like cars which focus on sportiness instead of building people cars focusing on convenience and fuel-ecnomy like say, the Honda City.

Proton is also going to the source for most of it’s suppliers of raw materials and non-automotive components. Right now there are 1700 non-automotive suppliers, supplying items like office equipment. As for automotive components, the vendor count will be reduced to 20-30 vendors from the 328 part vendors and 3000 sub-vendors currently. Proton’s 14 logistic providers will also be reduced to 3. This does not mean the other vendors will go out of business though, as likely the few vendors that Proton deals directly with will be outsourcing some business to the other vendors. Kind of like consolidation in a way, but not there yet. Encouraging though. Proton only has a deal with QC issues with a few vendors, and let the vendors deal with the sub-vendors. Sounds like cutting a lot of headache from the process.

As for export strategy, Proton realizes it cannot rely on the Malaysian market alone. Proton wants to penetrate the Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Sudan and Saudi Arabian market. As it is currently, Proton only managed to fulfill about 65% of it’s overseas orders because of certain issues like delays in parts supply and agreements. Those issues will also be addressed. Immediate new markets for Proton are the Thailand and Indonesian markets. Thailand would prove abit tough, as the national car there is basically Toyota, and pick-ups (Proton does not have a model in this segment, the 1.5 litre Arena really shouldn’t be taken seriously) are also very popular there. Existing markets are in United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, West Asia, North Africa and South Africa.

This should provide you with a basic outline of Proton’s plans to go down the recovery path and stay competitive. Syed Zainal seems to be walking the talk… don’t forget it’s been only about 100 days since he’s been appointed to office.