Proton has been asked by Chinese automaker Geely to expand its presence across the region, initially focusing on ASEAN markets such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei.

According to Proton CEO Li Chunrong, the automaker is also aiming to make its way into the Middle East and increase sales to Egypt. He revealed these expansion plans in an interview with Reuters, but did not provide specific timeframes for entry into individual markets.

He said that Proton wanted to increase its export numbers, which stood at about 1,000 cars last year, by at least four-fold this year, and is looking to have 40% of its sales coming from foreign markets by 2027.

Li told the newswire that Thailand and Indonesia have been identified as key markets, but declined to reveal the strategy to crack them. “We have a good foundation. We commit that, every year, we will launch a new model,” he said.

He added that Proton, which returned to profitability last year, could beat market leader Perodua by 2022, five years ahead of the target announced after Geely’s investment. In December last year, Li had said that the national carmaker was now aiming to go head-to-head with the likes of Toyota and Honda, and that Perodua was no longer its immediate competitor.

“Perodua is not even our competitor (anymore). Why? Because of different product position. Our Saga is much better than their Bezza,” he said last month.

Proton has implemented a series of cost-cutting measures that have bolstered its fortunes, but as the report indicates, some of the rapid changes have jarred local sensitivities, something that it could also encounter in other countries.

The company has increasingly switched to sourcing cheaper components from China, and let go of many small local distributors, bringing about some resentment. It has also been trying to get more Malaysian vendors to partner with Chinese suppliers in a bid to get them to cut costs by 30%.

The automaker has also cut its warehouses to four from 16 and sold 1,000 of its 1,500 company cars, and the austerity has even extended to stopping newspaper subscriptions for all executives, apart from Li’s deputy, the report adds.