At yesterday night’s 2019 Proton Saga facelift launch, Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong thanked the many parties involved in not just the Saga’s launch, but the carmaker’s revival plan, which is clearly going in the right direction. The company’s ambitions have been made explicitly clear – a return to profit, number one in Malaysia, and top three in ASEAN.

With Geely as a partner, Proton has since pushed out one all-new model (the X70) and four improved minor change models this year (Iriz, Persona, Exora and Saga). Clearly, it has been hard work churning out so many new products within a short period, but there have been plenty of work behind the scenes to get the company fitter as well.

Quality improvement is one of the hardest tasks. “This is very difficult and very challenging,” Li said. “Under the help of Geely, we have made great progress – 22 months ago, our demerit score was 6,388 points, today we achieve 1,329 points. But we know that compared to Geely, compared to Volvo, we have more room to improve,” he added.

Accompanying Li’s speech was a slide that showed Proton’s Global Customer Product Audit (GCPA) at 6,388 demerit points (the lower the better) before December 2017. As pointed out, massive improvement has led to a current score of 1,329 points. The immediate goal is to reach the benchmark, which is Geely’s level of 1,100 points in 2019. Volvo is further ahead at 850 points.

Looking back at previous GCPA updates, Proton end-2018 target was 1,500 points and in mid-2018, the company was at 1,763 points. The Geely Group’s GCPA is used as a benchmark for Proton to conduct its product quality audits, in tandem with global standards. The audit system rates issues encountered on the production line based on their severity.

The Proton chief also touched on cost reduction as a major strategy for the company, while thanking the many vendors who were at the launch for their efforts.

“I know, many vendors may be unhappy, but this (cost reduction) is of critical importance. Later you will know that because of your contribution, we can provide more competitive products to our Malaysian customers. However, this is not enough. We have more to do,” he said.

Proton being tougher on itself and its vendors, cost wise, has so far yielded improved products at lower prices, with each of the four 2019 minor change models also coming with added content to go along with lower RRP. For instance, the Saga facelift – priced from RM32,800 to RM39,800 – sees a sticker price reduction of around RM2,000 for the top spec Premium despite the addition of new features and improvements. May this trend continue.