Proton says that in terms of quality and branding, Perodua is no longer its immediate competitor. Rather, the national carmaker is now aiming to go head-to-head with the likes of Toyota and Honda.

According to Proton CEO Li Chunrong, with the company having made great strides in improving its quality, it is looking beyond these shores and taking the fight to global players. In an exclusive interview with Channel News Asia earlier this week, he said that while Proton had previously faced quality issues, this was no longer the case, with the significant inroads having been made in this area giving the automaker new impetus.

“That (quality issues) was the problem with Proton before, they did not have the resources to (look into quality). But now with the expertise and the resources from Geely as well as the experience of Proton as a national carmaker, we would be able to produce better quality cars. With our new product position, our competitors are Honda and Toyota,” he stated.

Li said that he is looking at Proton to focus on the finer aspects of vehicle development so it can make the transition from building “basic cars” to “high-end cars,” something that is part of the 10-year plan that has been envisioned for the brand.

He added the turnaround efforts over the past two years have propelled Proton far beyond its local counterpart in terms of market positioning, if not in numbers. “Perodua is not even our competitor (anymore). Why? Because of different product position. Our Saga is much better than their Bezza,” he claimed.

Li said that public trust in the brand was renewed after the introduction of the X70 SUV last year, and is reflected in the strong demand for the facelifted Saga, which was launched in August. The report adds that the company, which has been in the red for many years, is expected to break even this year and make profits next year.