ProtonProton MD Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin has revealed in an interview with Business Times that the Italian design company contracted to develop Proton’s next C-segment sedan is in fact Italdesign-Giugiaro SpA.

Giugiaro (founded 1968) has designed a lot of vehicles in the past, including the Mk1 Volkswagen Scirocco (not the modern one that’s just launched in Malaysia). It even had a big part in the development of the R56 MINI. Here are some of Giugiaro’s recent work:

Ssangyong C200 Concept and Suzuki SX4

The Business Times report revealed that a clay model of the car already exists at the design house’s headquarters in Turin, Italy. It definitely has to be, considering the new Persona replacement car was previously mentioned to be out by 2012, after the Waja replacement in 2010 and the Perdana replacement in 2011.

The car will be engineered to meet tougher European and North American standards. Proton’s North American entry is still a hazy area at the moment but there was talk earlier this year that Detroit Electric would be helping with getting the cars registered with whatever authorities there are there. Not sure what happened with that whole project.

The Exora introduced new technologies in Protons that were not used before – more sensors for the airbag system and a Body Control Module. Datuk Syed Zainal says the new C-segment Persona replacement will implement these new features and add even more features to bring the new Proton up to international standards. Proton is currently in talks with various vendors on what can be implemented.

It is also in exploratory talks with some parties including a Chinese company (Europestar, SAIC-Roewe?) on collaborating on an SUV, and in talks via Lotus with a South Korean battery company and an electric motor supplier regarding EVs (what happened to Detroit Electric?).