It has been an incredibly busy 2016 for Proton, which rolled out four new models this year. It all started with the Perdana in June, followed by the Persona in August and the Saga in September. The last of the quartet was the Ertiga MPV, unveiled a month ago. Whatever you think of the cars, that’s an amazing feat.

But despite the blitz, total sales for 2016, which Proton expects to be around 90,000 units, will be below target. This is because the buying momentum for the new models is still picking up, Proton CEO Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Kenali explained to Bernama. The company expects sales to improve next year.

“The delay in the launching of some of the models has affected the sales target for 2016. But with all the four products, we believe next year we should be able to achieve at least 10,000 sales per month, or 120,000 units for the whole of 2017,” he told the national news agency.

The Proton boss says that his company will now focus on the customer. “The whole effort within Proton is now focusing on customers first. We try to make sure the trust of the customers will come back to Proton and by giving them good products, our sales Inshallah (God willing) would be better next year,” said Ahmad Fuaad.

Proton points to seven-day operations at selected service centres as an example of improved customer service. As of December, 27 outlets are open throughout the week.

On the search for a foreign strategic partner, which is part of the conditions set by the Malaysian government in its RM1.5 billion soft loan to Proton, the DRB-Hicom owned company has shortlisted the final three potential partners. According to Ahmad Fuaad, the three automakers had the criteria that can propel Proton to greater heights. He expects to receive a complete proposal in February 2017 and will make an announcement in the first quarter of 2017 once the partner is selected.

“There could be further negotiations prior to the conclusion but hopefully a signing can be done by May 2017,” he said.