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Proton hones global crash performance

On the way: The Proton Preve is set to appear Down Under in August this year.

New Proton Prevé crash-tested in Sydney as Malaysian car-maker raises the bar

12 Apr 2012

AUSTRALIA is playing a backroom role in the development of Malaysian car-maker Proton’s first global-standard model range that kicks off with the Prevé small car that is set to be officially unveiled in Malaysia next week ahead of its arrival Down Under in August.

The Prevé – pronounced pray-vay and meaning ‘proved’ – was secretly crash-tested on behalf of Proton at Sydney’s Crashlab facility as part of the process to lift Proton safety standards to western levels so the new-look company can compete on the world stage.

As well, two Melbourne-based automotive component suppliers – Hella Australia and MTM Automotive – have signed deals to supply parts for future Proton models in a welcome shot in the arm for the Australian parts industry.

Malaysian reports say Proton is set to roll out six new models by 2014, all built to its new global standard that not only includes new levels of crash safety but also emissions standards up to European five stars.

The previous-model Proton Jumbuck ute was famously awarded just one star in the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash tests in 2009.

But now the same crash-testing facility that helped to dent the Jumbuck’s reputation is playing a role in the new wave of models that – judging only from grainy pictures of an offset crash impact seen by GoAuto – appear vastly improved.

43 center imageFrom top: Proton Preve, Exora and Jumbuck ANCAP crash test.

Proton Cars Australia managing director John Startari today confirmed that the Prevé had been crash-tested in Australia as part of its development, and would be re-tested at the same facility for ANCAP ratings ahead of its local launch in August.

He also confirmed that the Prevé was just days away from its debut in Malaysia, where local reports say the small sedan will be revealed by the Malaysian prime minister ahead of its roll-out in Malaysia and then other right-hand-drive markets such as Indonesia, Thailand and Australia.

Left-hand drive markets, notably the Middle East, will follow later.

Mr Startari said the Prevé would be launched in Australia about the same time as the new Exora seven-seat people-mover, a Toyota Avensis-style vehicle.

He said both vehicles were built on Proton’s new-generation P2 platform, with the Prevé – about Kia Cerato size – coming with a choice of normally aspirated and turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engines.

The base engine – for which no power or torque figures have yet been published – will be offered with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed stepped continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the low-pressure turbo version, producing 103kW of power and 205Nm of torque, will come exclusively with a seven-speed CVT and steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles.

Proton says the turbo engine can propel the Prevé from zero to 100km/h in 9.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 200km/h.

Fuel economy is said to be 8.2 litres per 100km, and emissions standards, for the top engine at least, qualifies for Euro 5.

In line with Australian safety requirements, the Prevé will be equipped with both ABS and ESC, and will come with six airbags.

Mr Startari said that, while the Prevé would not directly replace the slightly smaller Persona in the Proton range, rather sitting above it, the Persona would be dropped from the Australian line-up.

So far this year, Proton has sold just 57 Personas in Australia. The Jumbuck – Proton’s top-selling model – has clocked up only 94 sales.

With a total of just 313 sales for the first three months of 2012, Proton clearly is looking forward to the new-generation models.

Mr Startari said that Proton cars had until now been designed for the ASEAN market, with export models being upgraded to meet the higher standards required in markets such as Australia.

“The Prevé is the first Proton to be designed to global standards at the outset,” he said.

Although Mr Startari said he could only comment on models already locked in for Australia, Malaysian reports say next cab off the new-model rank will be a small hatchback, probably a five-door version of the Prevé.

A range of range-extender and full-electric vehicles – now under test by the Malaysian government – is also said to be coming next year.

Meanwhile, Hella Australia has won a $40 million Proton export contract for tail-lights made at its Mentone factory in Melbourne’s southern suburbs.

The company, which already supplies Toyota, Holden and Ford in Australia, said the deal was part of its plan to grow and diversify.

Hella Australia CEO Olavi Rantala said his company was meeting challenges head-on to ensure “our continued success as a proud Australian manufacturer”.

“This is definitely the result of our hard-working staff, who are as committed as the company management is to ensuring our long-term success and viability as an Australian manufacturer,” he said.

As well, fellow Victorian manufacturer MTM Automotive Pty Ltd will export gearshift lock mechanisms to Proton in a deal worth $10 million.

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