The Proton “Intelligence that Inspires Challenge” marketing competition has ended with Politeknik Port Dickson overcoming 11 other tertiary institution teams. The winning team showed such a level of enthusiasm for the competition that it even came up with a rap song for the X70. Team Alpha from Taylor’s Lakeside Campus came in second, while third place went to Team Alpha Visionaries from UTAR Kampar.

The final was held at Proton’s Centre of Excellence headquarters in Shah Alam on Monday, and the teams made their final presentation to a panel of seven judges consisting of senior management from Proton, marketing industry professionals and members of the media, including Driven’s Hafriz Shah, who was genuinely impressed at the students’ efforts.

“The students came up with rather unique proposals, a few of which genuinely surprised me. Safe to say, none of us within the industry could have come up with such ideas, proving the effectiveness of such a contest, tapping into fresh, young minds,” our man said.

Proton’s director of sales and marketing, Cheng Seng Fook, shared the same sentiments. “The high level of original thinking, creativity and confidence shown by each team in the final was a welcome surprise for the judges. We all remember what we were like as students so to come up before a panel of industry experts and to present their ideas clearly would have required a lot of practice and self-assurance,” he said.

“I think every team in the final is already made up of winners who have a bright future in any industry they wish to join, so it’s reassuring to see the future of our country will soon be in the hands of some very smart Malaysians,” Cheng added.

The contest – which was organised in partnership with the education ministry – started in April. It was divided into three stages – an Elimination Round, Semi-Final and Final. A total of 51 teams from 20 institutions of higher learning across the country took part, and the field was whittled to 19 teams for the second stage.

Their mission was to develop a marketing plan to maintain the market leading position of the Proton X70 SUV, as well as explore how the automaker can better engage with the public.

At the prize giving ceremony, Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong outlined his bold plans for next year and beyond. “Proton targets to sell more than 100,000 cars in 2020 and we also intend to finish at the top in our class for Customer Service Index (CSI) and Sales Service Index (SSI) scores,” he proclaimed.

“To achieve this, we will add to our industry leading number of 3S and 4S outlets from 100 to 150 by the end of next year. Proton will also continuously improve its product quality and our long-term goal is to match the quality audit score of Geely. Combine these elements with our future product launches and I am confident of our plan to return to the top,” he added.

Those targets – which include ultimately taking the long-held number one spot from Perodua – are nothing short of bold, but the company does have momentum on its side. Proton says that its first half of 2019 sales grew by 61% year-on-year, outpacing both rivals and the overall auto industry. The carmaker has now ended three consecutive months in second place behind Perodua, and sits only a few hundred units behind Honda, year-to-date. The immediate target is therefore to end the year in second place.