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It seems like there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Proton and Lotus, as they are both looking at a return to profitability as early as the 2016 financial year ending March 31, 2016.

According to The Edge Financial Daily, Proton CEO Datuk Abdul Harith Abdullah said that the company’s sales could reach 130,000 units this year (up 12.28% from 2014’s 115,783 units), buoyed by sales of the Iriz and Saga (chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed has hinted that a new Saga would be launched this year), as well as price drops stemming from the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1.

“We recorded dismal sales last year, perhaps the worst performance ever,” he said. “But sales last month [March] has surpassed 10,000 units. If we keep the momentum going, we should be able to reach 130,000 units this year.”

He added that Proton has sold some 30,000 cars in the first quarter of this year, with sales in January and February reaching 8,900 units and 8,254 units respectively. He also said that the company is working on building more brand awareness abroad in order to expand its exports to at least 10% of its total revenue, from what is currently a “small” percentage.

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Separately, Abdul Harith told Bernama that 11,000 units of the Iriz have found homes since its launch in September, with sales expected to pick up as the Raya season approaches.

“Almost 30% of the sales were done in the southern region while the balance came from the Klang Valley and other regions,” he said. “The Iriz is very saleable as it has technological characteristics only available in European cars, but consumers only pay half of what they would pay for a European car.”

With regards to Proton’s collaboration with Indonesia’s PT Adiperkasa Citra Lestari (with which it signed an MoU to build an ASEAN car last February), Abdul Harith said that the deal will be finalised within the next six months, pending the conclusion of a feasibility study as well as confirmation of equity structure and investment commitment.

Meanwhile, Lotus is said to be on a turnaround propelled by improved sales and after-sales service, cost optimisation as well as a “long-range product plan” designed to deliver a whole range of models up to 2019. Its CEO Jean-Marc Gales previously said that it has opened up new dealerships in major cities such as Paris, Berlin, Monaco and Abu Dhabi, implemented a customer database, improved the timing of new car launches, shortened build times and cut costs.

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“I have to admit that we recorded our lowest [sales] performance last year,” said Abdul Harith. “But that did not deter us from moving forward. Based on our plan, I am optimistic that the road to recovery will materialise by the 2016 financial year.”

Norfolk expects to sell 3,000 units this year, up from the 2,000 units it sold last year, driven by demand of the significantly revamped Evora 400 unveiled in Geneva last month.

“I am positive on the performance of Lotus,” Abdul Harith added. “We are seeing demand grow for the new Evora, which has reached some 400 bookings to date.”

Proton’s performance in the 2013 financial year was poor – it registered a RM821.4 million loss, an increase from the RM606.3 million it lost in 2012, cutting parent company DRB Hicom’s automotive division profit by 57.8% to RM64.28 million. Lotus, however, considerably narrowed its loss from £867 million (RM4.7 billion) in 2013 to £71 million (RM386 million) last year.