Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely, reported to have withdrawn its bid to acquire a controlling stake in Proton, was said to be looking at the national carmaker’s Tanjung Malim plant as a base to build right-hand drive versions of its Lynk & Co 01 SUV if the deal had gone through. The offering from its new sub-brand would have been set for export to various markets like the UK and Australia.

According to Autocar, Geely also had plans to establish Proton as an entry-level brand within its overall structure. A source from the Chinese carmaker told the publication on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month that the Chinese carmaker was also intent in securing Lotus as part of the tie-up.

“Geely has established itself as a reputable middle-class brand in China thanks to its links with Volvo. The purchase of Proton would give it a new entry-level point, which is considered crucial to further growth,” the source told the publication.

As for Lotus, Geely had been eyeing the British sports car maker very keenly. “My chairman is desperate to buy a sports car maker. We’ve spoken to Aston Martin and others, but Lotus has always been the target,” he added.

On Tuesday, a report indicated that Geely had pulled out of negotiations with the national automaker, the move being confirmed by Geely president An Conghui. An did not elaborate on the reasons for the decision, but earlier this month, the Chinese carmaker’s chairman Li Shufu had indicated that it was planning to pull out of the bidding process due to DRB-Hicom’s indecision regarding the partnership.

Securing a partnership with Proton would have allowed Geely access to Proton’s underutilised facilities as a production and export base, expanding the company’s presence in the South East Asian region by tapping into right-hand drive (RHD) markets via Proton. Sources had indicated that Geely promised DRB-Hicom some of the latest vehicle technologies it has developed with Volvo’s input as part of the deal.

The announcement of Geely’s withdrawal from the chase means that Groupe PSA remains as the leading – and thus far, the only publicly known – contender to become Proton’s foreign strategic partner. The French company – which is on a global expansion exercise – confirmed it submitted a bid for a partnership with Proton, announcing last month it was in talks with the Malaysian carmaker for a deal.