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Thursday April 7, 2011

Proton closing in on Perodua

By THOMAS HUONG
huong@thestar.com.my


PETALING JAYA: Proton is edging closer to regaining its top spot in the car market, five years after losing that position to Perodua.

Sales figures show that the gap in vehicle sales between national carmakers Proton Holdings Bhd and Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) is narrowing rapidly.

In the first quarter of this year, Proton recorded sales of 44,870 units while according to analysts, it is likely that Perodua sold about 45,000 vehicles.

Perodua is expected to release its confirmed 2011 first quarter sales figures on Friday.

At Proton’s factory in Shah Alam.

For the January-February period this year, Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) reports showed that Proton and Perodua recorded vehicle sales of 27,365 and 27,713 units respectively.

Proton's top-selling car is the current-generation Saga, followed by the Persona, Exora and Inspira.

The Myvi remained as Perodua's best-selling car, followed by the Viva and Alza. For the past five years, Perodua has been the top-selling national carmaker.

Last year, the company enjoyed an all-time record sales of 188,641 units while Proton sold a total of 157,274 vehicles.

Proton's loss of its crown as the top-selling national carmaker can be traced back to 2006, when Perodua outpaced Proton significantly by selling 152,733 cars.

The same year saw Proton sales dipping to 115,538 units (compared with 166,118 units in 2005).

Perodua's star rose with the Myvi, which was launched in May 2005 and rapidly became the nation's best-selling car over the next few years.

However, in recent years, Proton has narrowed the sales gap considerably with successful models such as the current-generation Saga, which sold 72,303 units last year (compared with Myvi sales of 77,657 units).

An automotive analyst with a local research firm said Proton had done well with the car models released in the past three years.

“Also, the strong 2011 first-quarter sales performance can be partly attributed to the Inspira which created new excitement when it was launched last November. Sales for a new car model is usually very strong in the first few months,” she said.

Meanwhile, an OSK Research automotive analyst said Proton had a good chance of overtaking Perodua in 2013.

“Public perception of Proton cars has improved in recent years. Last year, Proton exported about 14% of its total production. Also, in the near future, Proton is likely to have a 1.6-litre turbo-charged engine for its Exora. There is also a strong possibility of a global compact car introduction by 2013 in a tie-up with Nissan.”

The OSK Research analyst pointed out that Proton sales were also boosted by an exchange programme, which begun in mid-February and will end on April 30, where customers could trade in their cars (10 years old and above) and obtain rebates for a new Gen2, Waja or Savvy.

Discounts offered are up to RM6,000 and RM4,000 for 2010 and 2011 Proton models respectively.

Also, the impending launch of a Myvi replacement model, which is believed to be in the second half of this year, might have cooled Perodua sales.

Both analysts said many car buyers were holding back purchases while waiting for the new Myvi to be launched.

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