Proton is not only set to gain experience about electric vehicles (EVs) from a retail viewpoint through its collaboration with smart Automobile, because the partnership will also allow the national automaker to learn how to assemble them, deputy CEO Roslan Abdullah said in a Bernama report.

“The collaboration with smart Automobile and the distribution of smart cars will teach us (Proton) how to assemble EVs locally and give us experience and knowledge on the assembly process,” he said during a panel discussion at the Invest Malaysia Series 2: The Road to EV event held earlier today.

Having inked an agreement in August to distribute and sell smart EVs in Malaysia and Thailand, the company is set to introduce the smart #1 in the country sometime in the fourth quarter of 2023 (Q4 2023). It – and future smart offerings – will be marketed through Proton’s fully-owned subsidiary, Proton New Energy Technology (Pro-Net).

While the #1 will arrive on the scene as a fully-imported CBU, the mention by Roslan about gaining knowledge of EV assembly offers a suggestion that CKD may be a possibility down the line, although it could be a good while before that happens.

Proton has said it is aiming to sell between 800 and 1,000 units of vehicles from the smart brand annually in Malaysia, and so the path will be very much CBU initially. However, its ambition of ramping up total smart numbers to the 10,000-unit cumulative mark by 2027 hints that local assembly could come into play eventually.

As for plans for Proton to develop and sell its own EVs, which it hopes to begin doing by 2027, Roslan said Malaysia needed to produce its own EVs, given the growth trajectory the segment was expected to record in the coming years, the New Straits Times reports.

“It is a must for Proton and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to produce their own EVs because as you can see globally, EV is something that will stay,” he added.