Proton has resumed exports to the Middle East, the first time it is shipping out cars since Geely became a partner. A symbolic flag-off ceremony was held at Westport in Port Klang today, where 440 units of the Proton Gen2 and 13 units of the first-generation Persona were driven into the Grand Diamond cargo vessel.

The ship will be heading to Aqaba in Jordan, where the Protons will then be distributed to Iraq and other neighboring countries. Proton says that its cars have a strong following in the region, where owner clubs have remained active despite the lack of new models over the past few years. Proton’s last major export to the MENA region was to Egypt back in 2015.

“This ceremony marks a starting point for Proton as we resume and ramp up shipments to the Middle East in the coming months. It’s also the first export shipment since the partnership with Geely commenced and we expect our export market to have a positive outlook in the future so be prepared for more such announcements from as early as August this year,” said deputy CEO Datuk Radzaif Mohamed.

Proton says that product quality has improved since the company implemented the Global Customer Product Audit (GCPA) system to its production processes, with a threefold improvement to the number of demerit points registered. Based on a scale where smaller figures means better quality, Proton’s GCPA at the end of June 2018 is 1,763 points, with a year-end target of 1,500. The current score for Geely and Volvo is 1,200 and 850 points, respectively.

“The Middle East markets hold high regard for products from Islamic countries like Malaysia. The demand for cars will grow as their economies develop and will help fuel the growth of our export business. The ASEAN market however will remain as the main priority for Proton’s export business so we are excited about the opportunities available in the region,” said Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong, who was also at the ceremony.

Proton is also leveraging on Geely’s extensive overseas network operations to increase cost effectiveness. “We are exploring all opportunities to grow export volumes for Proton. Geely is making a big effort to support us in this initiatives and there is a lot of experience within the group so we hope to leverage on it to enable us to sell more cars outside of Malaysia,” Li added.

Locally, Proton’s next move is the October launch of its first SUV, which is based on the facelifted Geely Boyue.