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Proton model proliferation

Planning ahead: Proton's goal is to go from seven platforms to two.

Malaysian car-maker is rolling out a range of fresh metal

5 Dec 2007

NEXT year will prove pivotal for Proton it introduces the first of a flurry of new models to Australia.

The goal is to reduce the number of platforms to just two from the seven that are currently in use.

The smaller of the two – known internally as the BLM (for Basic Line Model) architecture – may underpin as many as four new models that will slot underneath today’s Toyota Corolla-class Gen.2/Persona.

A new, larger platform may be responsible for up to eight distinct future Protons, including the eventual replacement for the Gen.2, Persona, mid-sized Perdana (basically a late-1990s Mitsubishi Galant with a Proton nose and posterior), and Jumbuck light-commercial vehicle, as well as a still-secret people mover among others.

However, in the shorter term, Proton is busy preparing an overhaul of its current range.

First off the rank is the Persona, a sedan version of the Gen.2 hatch that is due in Australia in March next year.

Completely unrelated to the Mitsubishi CC Lancer-based four-door sedan and five-door hatchback small cars sold here under the Persona nameplate from the latter part of the 1990s until 2004, the new version also heralds a fresh philosophical direction for Proton.

Building on the Gen.2 product portfolio, it introduces Proton’s ‘consumer-focussed’ era, bringing in attributes such as increased comfort, space, convenience items and perceptions of quality.

While not abandoning the BMW-style sports-sedan philosophy that existing models have been imbued with as a result of stablemate Lotus’ widespread chassis input, Proton says it will seek to balance this with practicality and convenience.

After all, with an asset like Lotus on hand, the Malaysians will still highlight the dynamic virtues of Protons as a unique selling point against its mostly Asian competitors.

Following the Persona will be a Gen.2 facelift, incorporating much of the changes seen in the sedan.

43 center imageFrom the top: Persona, Savvy and Jumbuck.

Due late in 2008, it will also receive the revised CamPro 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that features new software to help plump out torque accessibility and improve driveability across a wider rev range.

We understand that the Gen.2 name may be scrapped for Persona on the revised hatch to keep it in line with the sedan, as well as to build on consumer knowledge of the brand,A hot motorsport version of both the hatch and sedan may follow, using expertise gained from Proton’s motorsport division.

The company is also expected to introduce a turbo-charged version of its slow-selling Satria.

Using a low-blow turbo to boost performance rather than create an out-and-out hot-hatch, this Satria ‘GT’ will sit at the top of the light car range, and should give the likes of the Ford Fiesta XR4 a run for their money.

Another important Proton waiting in the wings is the ‘Saga II’ (a name has not yet been released, but this food-derived moniker may yet make it on the new vehicle) – the all-new replacement for the 1985 Mitsubishi Lancer-derived Saga that is still being produced in Malaysia.

It will be about the same size as the Toyota Yaris sedan, and will use a version of the Cam Pro 1.6-litre engine.

Although the Saga II will be the first Proton to use the BLM platform, it is essentially a reworked and booted version of the Savvy sub-B segment light car – although the two share no obvious sheetmetal.

Expect to see the Saga II sometime in late 2008 or early 2009, priced from under $15,000. It will be unveiled in Malaysia at the end of this year or early next year.

Not long after that, we believe that that the Savvy will gain a number of changes introduced in the Saga II, including its CamPro powerplant.

This replaces one of the single most expensive items currently holding back the Savvy, the 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and matching manual and semi-automatic gearboxes, which Proton purchasers from Renault of France.

Meanwhile, the still-secret larger platform under development at Proton will underpin the largest vehicles to ever wear the Tiger logo.

A mid-sized sedan that will be pitched against the likes of the Mazda 6 is in the development pipeline. This is due in about 2010.

However this vehicle is subject to change, according to which manufacturer Proton will enter into a technical agreement with.

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is the most likely candidate right now, and its own replacement for the Galant (that is the basis for our 380) might have some bearing on matters Malaysian and mid-sized.

Also in the Proton product-planning department is a mini-van of about Honda Odyssey size, although very little is known about this vehicle.

Proton will also probably produce the next Jumbuck utility off the medium-sized platform.

Details are still sketchy, but we believe that it will be a larger and bulkier vehicle than the current, 1992 Mitsubishi CC Lancer-derived model.

“It will be more truck-like,” says one Proton insider.

What's coming from Proton:
Persona March 2008
Gen.2/Persona hatch Late 2008
Saga II First half 2009
Savvy facelift 2009
Mid-sized sedan 2010
People Mover 2010/2011
Jumbuck II 2010/2011

Read more:

First drive: Proton's spicier new Persona

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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