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Earlier in the month, it was reported that Proton was studying the possibility of a partnership with one or more China-based car manufacturers in an effort to develop an ASEAN car. It looks like things are moving ahead on that front, with a timeline for product deployment now being mentioned.

According to Bernama, second International Trade and Industry minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said Proton was currently in negotiations with a few automobile companies in China, including Geely, and a new ASEAN car could come about in under two years.

“Things are moving positively. They say they need 20 months from now to build a plant and roll out the first car,” he told reporters at an event yesterday.

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Ong said that there was a lot of potential in tapping into the regional automotive sector, given the large population, expanding middle class and strong purchasing power. “We must act fast to capture the market. If we can produce cars to cater to this market, it will be highly beneficial given the various regional free trade agreements,” he explained.

He added that partnerships with Chinese carmakers will enable Malaysia to leverage on China’s strong R&D, thus improving Proton cars and enable the national automaker to come up with a competitive model for the ASEAN market.

This directional change would shift the focus away from that reported earlier in the year, when Proton was understood to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an Indonesian partner to intensify efforts to build an ASEAN car. Last year, the automaker had expressed its interest and willingness to collaborate with regional manufacturers to produce an ASEAN car.