Earlier in the year, PROTON announced that it would be expanding its model range in 2023, and the first addition was given its public debut at a line-off ceremony following the unveiling of the company’s new stamping line in its Tanjung Malim production facility.
The new model will be the 3rd SUV in PROTON’s range, helping to reinforce the brand’s dominance in the SUV segment in Malaysia. The Proton X50 currently holds the lead in the B-segment SUV market and is also the best-selling SUV in Malaysia. Additionally, the new model (which may or may not be named the X90) will also be the first model from PROTON to offer hybrid technology, marking the brand’s entry into the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) space.
This is the first step in PROTON’s strategy to introduce future NEV models to its range in the lead up to its first locally produced electric vehicle (EV). PROTON had signed a General Distributorship Agreement in 2022 to sell and service electric vehicles in Malaysia and Thailand for the smart Automobile Company. smart Automobile Company is a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz AG and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, with each party holding a 50% stake. Subsequently, the company had sent 16 engineers to China for a 6-month work attachment focused on all aspects involving EV.
“Today’s line-off ceremony marks the beginning of activities leading up to the official introduction of Proton’s latest model. Following the start of production, we will hold a media preview and customer familiarisation sessions before launching our new SUV, which will also mark be our first NEV product. This is an important step in our NEV journey which will gradually build emphasis on hybrid technology before we launch the first Proton EV,” said Roslan Abdullah, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, PROTON.
The newest addition to the Tanjung Malim plant involved an investment of RM140 million. The stamping line can produce up to 50 unique components with the machines capable of stamping parts with up to 2,500 tonnes of force. This line is currently the biggest in Malaysia and would reduce the company’s reliance of imported parts by as many as 115,000 units annually.
The new stamping line will not only boost the local content for PROTON’s SUVs e.g. body panels, but will also reduce the company’s reliance on imported parts, thus insulating it against any potential disruptions in global trade and logistics.
The construction of the new stamping line began in early April 2021, with installation of machinery commencing in July 2022 and fully completed by December. There are 5 stamping machines, with a single machine capable of exerting 2,500-tonnes of force and 2 machines each with a pressing force of 1,200-tonnes and 1,000-tonnes respectively. The stamping line has the the aid of real-time data and machine learning to improve the efficiency and quality of parts produced as well as reduce human error. The line also utilises 6 robots to transfer parts between workstations.
“The launch of our new stamping line in Tanjung Malim is a major addition to PROTON’s car production capabilities. As a national automotive brand, the increased use of locally sourced parts in our production activities is vital to the national automotive ecosystem and helps reduce the outflow of funds from the country,” added Roslan Abdullah. “Aside from potentially reducing our use of imported parts by 115,000 units per year, the stamping line also allows for greater flexibility when deciding our production mix every month and improves the speed by which we can locally produce new models”.
Present at the official introduction of the new stamping line was the Menteri Besar of Perak, Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad, hosted by Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar, Chairman of PROTON.
The upcoming SUV is assembled at Tanjung Malim alongside the Proton X50 and X70 and is set to embark on a nationwide customer familiarisation tour before its official launch.