Proton will be moving upmarket, and will eventually compete with Japanese marques such as Honda and Toyota, and not market leader Perodua. This was mentioned by Proton CEO Li Chunrong at the launch of an upgraded 3S centre in Klang yesterday, reported by The Star.

“Seriously, Perodua’s product range is entry level. Three months later (when Proton’s first SUV is launched), our product would be a higher-end product. For now, Perodua is our competitor but in three months, it won’t be anymore because our products would be different,” Li said, adding that prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently commented that the SUV is of high quality.

“In the future, we will bring in products that are updated, new and equipped with the latest technologies. Not old products but new products that are available elsewhere will come here. We will launch (in Malaysia) at the same time as we launch them around the world,” the Proton chief added.

The report quotes Li as saying that Proton expects its SUV, which will debut in October, to eventually be the best selling SUV in the country. “For this new product, the direct competitor is the (Honda) CR-V. In China, the (Geely) Boyue consistently outsells the other Japanese marques,” he said.

It must be said though that traditionally, Japanese cars aren’t top sellers in China, which is dominated by Volkswagen, GM and local brands. According to reports, Honda sold nearly 750,000 CR-Vs worldwide last year, making it the third most popular SUV globally, and the seventh best selling vehicle of any type in 2017.

Proton’s SUV is based on the facelifted Geely Boyue, which will compete with the CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan X-Trail in our market. Li said that the Boyue has been tailored for Malaysia, with over 20 components changed.

“We are also doing many tests on the SUV before it is launched and that is why we are late. We are now doing test drives on the Malaysian roads which are not complete yet. These are to test for local customer needs,” he said.

With Geely in the driver’s seat, Proton’s turnaround won’t stop at the SUV – the company will launch one new model every year. “We can guarantee we will launch one product every year. For new products, they will be launched at the same time that they are launched in the global markets. In the future, the new products can share the same platform and then they will be tailored to each country’s customer needs and demands to develop the necessary solutions,” Li revealed.

As for the challenges that lie ahead, Li says that Proton’s brand image is a hurdle, and this will be overcome by improved products and services.

“What is branding? It is an image, and how do we improve our image? I think there are two ways: first, product and secondly, service. If you have a good product and good service, then your brand will be well. For an improved brand name, it is not only through talk but by doing it right.

“After-sales service is important and the people, they reflect our corporate culture. The right products and secondly right service that give customer satisfaction,” he said.

Proton has outlined its quality and after-sales improvement initiatives, as well as its target to top Customer Service Index (CSI) rankings within three years. Full story here.

GALLERY: Geely Boyue facelift