PROTON TO GO DEEPER INTO IRANIAN MARKET – CKD PROTON MPV BY 2010
Malaysia’s Proton Holdings Bhd aims to push 5,000 Proton vehicles in the Iranian market this year, 10,000 in 2009 and work its way to eventually reach 50,000 units beyond that.
Its managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said Iran represented a big potential for Proton, with the total industry volume in this Islamic republic of 70 million people hovering at about 1.4 million cars a year.
“The car-per-population ratio here is about one to 10, so there’s still a long way to go in terms of maturity. Obviously it’s matter of giving the right products to the right market. If you look at, say, only 10 percent of the market share, that’s already 140,000 cars,” he told Malaysian journalists covering the visit of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Iran.
Yesterday, Abdullah witnessed the signing of an agreement between Proton and its Iranian partner, Zagross Khodro, for the supply of automotive parts that allows the latter to assemble the Proton Gen.2 model through a completely knocked-down (CKD) arrangement.
The first production of the model is expected to start in April 2009 at Zagross’ vehicle assembly plant in Borujerd city, southwest of Iran, with a production capacity of 25,000 units per year.
“Right now we don’t have any investment (in Iran). We provide the technical support for the assembly, the training. But I think in the long term, we have to see whether there is any opportunity for us to invest in Iran,” said Syed Zainal Abidin.
Touching on Proton’s presence in this country, he said: “So far we have CKD for the Wira and the Gen.2 is the next step. Going forward, we hope to introduce the Saga and Persona models next year.”
The Proton Waja, called the Impian here, can be seen roaming the streets of Tehran as taxis.
Syed Zainal Abidin said plans were also a foot to introduce the CKD version of Proton MPV in Iran by 2010. The Proton MPV will be launched in the Malaysian market in March.
“We cater for the young generation and we’re excited about the potential of the Saga which is a very economical car, something that represents a good alternative for Iranians,” he said.
Elaborating on the Gen.2, Syed Zainal Abidin said feedback showed that people were attracted by its design besides the fact that the model represented a different value proposition.
“Obviously we need to improve on the overall price positioning, and that’s why going from CBU (completely built-up) to CKD will give us a slight advantage because the CBU import duty is slightly higher than for the CKD version,” he said.
The Proton managing director felt that the business model for Iran would not be the CBU as it would not be cost-competitive in the long term.
“It has to be the CKD with extensive localisation,” he said.
Proton will also establish an office in Iran by March 2009, signalling the car manufacturer’s intention to go deeper into the Iranian market.
“The time has come for us to be more serious about Iran. The office will allow us to have our people on the ground to provide support from the technical point of view, the service and, of course, the marketing plan that will give us a better understanding of the Iranian market,” he said.
Syed Zainal Abidin said the move would also enable Proton to react faster in a competitive market such as Iran.
According to him, Proton’s presence in Iran would not be confined to the domestic market as the country could also serve as a hub for the company’s expansion in the Middle East.
Besides the relationship with Zagross Khodro, Proton also entered into a strategic collaboration agreement in August with another Iranian car company called Saipa, basically a government-owned entity similar to Proton.
Syed Zainal Abidin explained that it was a technology collaboration with the possibility for Saipa to use the Proton-developed Campro engine in its cars as well as the joint development of a car using Proton’s platform.
“It gives a very unique opportunity here for Proton to be a technology provider. We’re very excited about this opportunity. The agreement was signed in August and hopefully by the first quarter of next year we’ll come to a conclusion that’ll pave the way for the localisation of the Campro engine,” he said.
Proton expects the total demand for the Campro engine to hit about 100,000 units per year in the next three to four years.
“Our relationships with Zagross and Saipa should be complementary. We hope to push for the localisation of the Campro engine where Zagross can use it for the Proton cars and Saipa will also use the same engine for their cars,” he said.
Source : BERNAMA