The Proton-Geely strategic partnership has officially begun. Earlier this morning, DRB-Hicom and Zhejiang Geely (ZGH) signed the definitive agreement for the Chinese carmaker to acquire a 49.9% equity stake in Proton.

The deal was formally inked in Kuala Lumpur by DRB-Hicom group MD Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar and ZGH president An Conghui, witnessed by prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and ZGH chairman Li Shufu. The signing today took place exactly 30 days after an initial agreement on the deal was made in Putrajaya.

It was announced at the event that the aspects of the partnership will include Proton being the manufacturing hub for Geely’s right-hand drive (RHD) models. The national carmaker will also have access to ZGH’s products, platforms and technologies. There will also be the opportunity for cross-pollination of talent with the Chinese carmaker’s global engineering centres.

All this will provide Proton with the ability to access markets beyond Malaysia, with South-East Asia and China being markets mentioned. According to Syed Faisal, local vendors who meet standards will be involved in Geely’s global network. He added that Proton will be able to assemble Volvo cars at its Tanjung Malim plant if there is excess capacity.

Najib expressed his confidence that in ZGH, DRB-Hicom has found a partner that has the ability, expertise and ambition to take Proton to new levels of success and a secure future.

“Geely is a company with the right credentials, committed leadership, and a proven track record. The new partnership between DRB-Hicom and Geely could well see Proton become one of the leading carmakers in South-East Asia and one of Malaysia’s great exports to the region,” he said in his speech at the event.

“That would represent a win for Proton, for the owners, for the Malaysian economy, and for the hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who would benefit as a result,” he added.

Li was also positive on the agreement, and expressed his hope that the cooperation will yield success. “We hope that through our cooperation with DRB-Hicom, Proton will be transformed into the No. 1 independent automobile brand in Malaysia and one of the top three in South-East Asia,” he said.

The signing of the definitive agreement today also saw DRB-Hicom concluding its 100% sale of Lotus Advance Technology to ZGH and Etika Automotive, with ZGH acquiring a 51% majority stake in the British sports car maker. In May, DRB-Hicom had announced that it was selling its entire stake in Lotus, exiting the sports car business completely.

Li said that for Lotus, ZGH will increase new product launches and capacity to fully release the brand’s appeal. He added that Proton and Lotus will create synergies for ZGH to position itself as a major player in the ASEAN market.

The Geely Boyue – which will provide the basis for the partnership’s first model- was showcased at the signing ceremony today – details and images of the SUV here. Also on show at the event was the updated and enhanced Proton Exora MPV, featuring lightly revised aesthetics and equipment.

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