During a group interview with Yoshiya Inamori, the new vice president of manufacturing at Proton provided some insights into some of the current issues affecting the national carmaker, and how he plans to address them.

The main objective has been made clear from the start – get Proton back to the top spot in Malaysia. Naturally, this requires sales numbers to be larger than current (5,083 units in October), which Inamori says has made it difficult to secure profits.

“The Shah Alam and Tanjung Malim (plants), relative to their big area and big capacity, they have very (low) volume. I think in that sense, I see some difficulties to profit here.”

Inamori also commented the systems within Proton plants were satisfactory as they conform to various ISO certifications (9001 and 14001 for Tanjung Malim; 9001 for Shah Alam). However, the number of model launches is a concern for him, as quality assurance for each model can become an issue.

He was referring to Proton’s four-model offensive last year, where the new Perdana, Persona, Saga and Ertiga were launched within months of each other.

“Last year, Proton launched four new models in one year. So, I think it’s causing some quality issues here, because even in Japanese automotive companies, we usually put a six-month gap between model launches. So, four launches in one year, it never happens, even in Japanese automotive companies. It’s very difficult to keep the good quality if we launch four models in one year,” he explained.

When asked if he thought quick, successive launches should no longer be done, Inamori said, “no, for the future, it should not happen because for customers, quality is more important.

He elaborated by saying, “for the delivery, we always try to provide perfect quality for customers, but in the plant, it’s still a little bit busy because of the (quick) four models launched. So, I see problems, quality problems in the plant, and we are spending a lot of time to fix this plant. In the factory, I need to improve (things) and reduce the repairing costs.”

“Actually, we just launched the cross-functional team (CFT) from October, we call it the CFT activity, and we have eight CFT teams. Put simply, for quality, profitability and customer satisfaction, we set up a team for the three months of October, November and December. Within this three months, we are expecting big improvements for not only quality but also the cost and customer satisfaction.”

“I see lots of room to improve for costs, but I think if we finish all the quality improvement activities, we can reduce the repair time, and make the factory more efficient which will help in cost reduction.”

Inamori also responded to a question posed to him, which asked if the number of variants would be reduced to streamline Proton’s line-up. “From a production standpoint, I’m not asking to reduce the number of products. If possible, if one product has too many options or variants, I may ask. For example, if some colours are not selling very well, we can ask to reduce the number of colours for example. Such kind of activity I think,” he said.