Proton will be re-entering South Africa, as it has signed an agreement for the appointment of CMH Group to be the distributor of Proton vehicles in that market. The virtually held signing ceremony will see the first shipment of fully imported models enter the South African market in September, beginning with the X50 and X70 SUVs, the carmaker said in its statement.

The national carmaker is optimistic about its prospects in the South African market, and it aims to more than double its sales volume there in 2023, it said. Proton has seen its first-quarter total export sales this year increase by 175% compared to the same period last year, and that figure is expected to grow even further as it aims to increase export sales by more than 300% by the end of this year, said Proton.

In terms of exports as of the first quarter of this year, 794 units of various models were shipped out in March, and Pakistan is Proton’s largest export market, accounting for 690 units last month. Prior to the addition of South Africa, Proton currently exports to 13 countries, and has local assembly operations in Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh, to be joined by Sri Lanka in the second half of this year.

Proton is also taking an increasingly prominent role as part of overall vehicle exports from Malaysia, the carmaker said. This was 12.9% of total exports from Malaysia in 2019, growing to 30.2 in 2020 before reaching 60.9% last year, which made Proton the top exporter of vehicles in the country, as well as showcasing its export performance despite difficult market conditions due to the pandemic, it said.

“Proton’s long-term goals require exports to play a major role to grow the company’s overall sales as total industry volume in Malaysia is expected to remain flat. So, we are exploiting the strength of our new products, our brand and even the links Malaysia has with other countries to establish a foothold in many new markets. This is then bolstered by establishing knock-down (local assembly) operations where possible, which also helps to grow local economies,” said Proton director of international sales Steven Xu.