Malaysian carmaker Proton Holdings Berhad, whose plan to enter the India market has been on the backburner for quite some time now, may be mulling local assembly operation through an Indian partner or even taking on board a local distributor to market its cars in India.
Abdul Rashid Bin Musa, chief technical officer, Group Engineering, who spoke exclusively to Autocar Professional at the Automechanika Kuala Lumpur 2015 earlier this month, said that Proton is still undertaking a feasibility study to understand the Indian market and the right product for it. He said Proton is exploring a local partnership to either assemble or distribute Proton cars as an option.
It could be an operations similar to that of Mitsubishi’s in India. At present, Hindustan Motor Finance Corp (HMFCL) contract manufactures for Mitsubishi Motors as the Japanese manufacturer is yet to establish its own manufacturing facility in India. HMFCL assembles the Pajero Sport automatic and MT version for Mitsubishi in its Chennai plant and will be making the new Montero and Outlander that are slated to be launched during this year. It also contract produces Isuzu Motors’ MU-7 SUV and D-Max pick-up truck in Chennai till Isuzu’s new plant in Sri City in Andhra Pradesh is up and running. So Proton could also be toying with a similar option.
“There are some specific, not trade barriers, but I would say specifications like reduction of tariff (excise duties) if the car is below 4 metres in length. Market to market, there are different priorities that may or may not pose a challenge. We have a sub-4-metre car – the Iriz (global small car) – but the challenge is the diesel price in India. In a market which favours diesel, and the diesel price is lower than petrol, it is a challenge as we have a stronger petrol portfolio in Malaysia where diesel is used mostly for commercial vehicles,” Musa said.
The Iriz, designed for global markets, is a five-door supermini that was launched in September 2014 in Malaysia by Proton. It is powered by an all-new range of 1.3-litre VVT and 1.6-litre VVT Proton engines meeting Euro 4 emission norms. It is 3920mm long, 172mm wide and 1554mm tall with a 2555mm wheelbase.
“But we are still studying the best model for India,” Musa added. He elaborated that Proton has a seven-car portfolio ranging from small cars like the Saga hatchback to a 7-seater MPV with prices ranging between $10,000 to $ 20,000 between hatchback, sedan and MPV. But the carmaker does not have an SUV, which is a popular segment in India.