protonProton has reported that it has posted a RM186 million profit before tax for the first half of its 2010/11 financial year, up from the RM165 million it registered in the corresponding period last year.

The company said in a statement that it had registered a 13% increase in its vehicle sales up to Q2 of 2010, with the growing demand for Proton vehicles significantly contributed by three core models – the Saga, Persona and Exora.

Group profit before taxation at RM81 million for Q2 however, was lower than the RM105 million recorded in the immediate preceding quarter. This was attributable to a one-off provision for stock obsolescence, and branding and restructuring costs incurred by Group Lotus for the business turnaround exercise. This involved the launching of a new brand identity for Group Lotus and culminated with the worldwide unveiling of five brand new Lotus models at the Paris Motor Show in September.

“Proton remains confident that sales will continue to grow, on the strength of the public’s positive response towards the recently launched Inspira. As of yesterday, Proton has already received a total of 3,400 bookings for the Inspira since it opened for booking on October 14,” said Proton Holdings chairman Datuk Nadzmi Mohd Salleh.

He also added that Proton’s performance going forward will also be backed by the introduction of refreshers and variants. He further explained that the Group will also focus on expanding into selected key markets, intensifying on branding and marketing initiatives, and continuing to invest in development activities and the acquisition of new technology.

The company also intends to take an early advantage of and capitalise on the Government’s initiative to make Malaysia a regional hub for hybrid, electric and environmentally-friendly vehicles, said Proton’s group managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin.

The full exemption on the import and excise duties until December 31, 2011 for hybrid cars below 2,000cc which includes electric cars, hybrid motorcycles and electric motorcycles is key to these efforts.

“These exemptions will serve as an attractive incentive for local companies such as Proton to manufacture such vehicles in Malaysia. This will not only extend significant savings to car owners in terms of lower fuel costs, but assists Proton in the forefront of promoting Malaysia as a regional hub for the development and manufacturing of green technology vehicles,” Syed Zainal added.

The company is already in the final phase of testing and validating a Proton Exora Extended Range Electric Vehicle, which is targeted for commercial production as early as 2011. The vehicle had earlier in the month won the ‘Best Range Extender Electric Vehicle’ category in the inaugural Brighton to London Future Car Challenge organised by Royal Automobile Club in the UK.