The announcement in Beijing by Proton Holdings Bhd group MD Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir that the company would go all out to lure Chinese billionaires for its luxury Lotus sport car, was indeed a good move.
Good in the sense that Proton will not only make headway in the world's largest economy but will also open the door to the 'Greater China', Mongolia and eastern Russia. And with a well-strategised marketing, the target to sell 400 units of the model seems not to be so daunting.
With Lotus China to open up 30 showrooms by 2013 will help boost its sales. Well, it is timely for Lotus to enter the Chinese market, and as the network of dealers expands, demand for Lotus sport cars will grow accordingly.
China has many millionaires and billionaires, in fact the number accounts for almost 20 per cent of the worlds' total. They also have a classy taste for other sport makes such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and others. With a 'British' origin, Lotus would be another good option for them.
However, while Proton choose China as the largest sales platform for Lotus, the company should also consider the position of other Proton models in the country. While we accept the influx of China-made models to Malaysia, we should also try to persuade them to 'reciprocate'.
I am not raking the past but history provides us with better insights of how improvement can be attained. When other car manufacturers were busy producing their SUV and MPV models that conquered the market, Proton took more than 10 years later to introduce the Exora, which is not a hit.
There is no way for us to curb the entry of foreign cars to Malaysia. Globalisation and the open market system makes competition more stiff and car manufacturers have to find fresh strategies to stay in business. Proton should always be in good competition with the rest, in Malaysia and elsewhere.
We are proud of Proton's achievement thus far but as compared to other makes, we still lag in innovation and in keeping up with the 'trends in demand'. Proton must be able to habituate to foreign specification while tagging a competitive price to its product.
Something must be done to market Proton's product worldwide. Lotus aside, Proton models are finding it more difficult to penetrate the markets where Honda, Toyota, KIA, Cherry, BMW or other makes have established.
Are we selling any Exora or Saga to China? My last time in Beijing in 2006, I didn't see any.
And by the way, can we find any Proton car on the roads of the countries where Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Hummer, Fiat, KIA and Nissan are produced? We see this cars in Malaysia but can we find a single Proton model over there?
Yes, it is true that we own 100 per cent stake in Lotus UK but Proton models are still our dominance. Why can't we take this models to China, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Japan and other countries?
Are we so inferior?