Signs of life at Proton

Not quite out of the woods yet, but four new launches in five months is an achievement worth celebrating.

Any event that ends with Bill Withers’ Lovely Day can’t be all bad. But if I had told you sometime back in June that Proton would complete the task of launching four new models in the space of the following five months, you’d call me ‘sial’ (in my books, it means ‘dumbass’). That Proton needed a rescue package from the government (to the reported sum of RM1.5 billion) pretty much summed up the deep hole it had found itself in once again. That and the small matter of a management change to contend with. No sweat.

The chairman of Proton, Dato’ Sri Syed Faisal Albar, paying tribute to his hardworking team.

No wonder the Chairman of Proton, Dato’ Sri Syed Faisal Albar was beaming all through his speech during the Proton Ertiga launch. He took great pains in calling out various teams and thanking them publicly for their perseverance in completing what must have been a herculean effort. Anyone with any knowledge of the ins and outs of auto manufacturing would know that stacking the production timing of new models this close is risky business. It matters not whether the model is Proton’s own or in the case of the Ertiga, a re-badge of the three-row Suzuki MPV bearing the same name. All you need is one missing screw and nothing rolls out of the plant.

Amidst the rallying calls to his troops, the message from the chairman was also one of guarded optimism. Proton isn’t out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination; consumer confidence has seen better days and vehicle financing are harder to come by. When the 2016 numbers are tabulated, it won’t look too flattering for Proton either. But by overcoming the monumental hurdle of launching four new models in the space of five months, Proton has at least a fighting chance in the months ahead, and no one can deny that they have rightfully earned it.