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Proton promises to undercut Chinese

Price leader: The new Proton sedan is sold in Malaysia as the Saga.

Proton confident new Saga will be the cheapest sedan in Oz from early next year

15 May 2009

PROTON Australia is confident it will undercut expected Chinese rivals with a new small sedan due to go on sale early next year.

The Malaysian brand today confidently announced the new entrant will be the most affordable sedan in Australia.

Already on sale in Malaysia, the new Saga is a sedan version of the Savvy hatch, but has a 1.6-litre Campro engine instead of the Savvy’s 1.2-litre unit.

Proton, which currently markets the $13,990 Savvy as the cheapest model in the range, will not disclose the proposed pricing for the new car.

Proton Cars Australia managing director, John Startari, told GoAuto that his company expects to sell around 2000 units of its new budget model, which would represent around 50 per cent of the brand’s planned total annual volume.

“It is the right car that has arrived at the right time,” Mr Startari said.

“We are really being quite conservative with our figure of 2000 and the sky is the limit in terms of supply.” Mr Startari would not comment on the business of Australian importers who were preparing to bring Chinese cars to market here, reportedly for as little as $10,000, but said he was convinced that recent currency changes meant no Chinese sedans would go on sale here for less than the new Proton.

“We are confident this (car’s price) will beat any new entrants,” he said.

Mr Startari said the new sedan will give Proton Cars Australia a massive boost.

“This is our chance to take Proton to the position it should have been for the last 10 years.” Proton Cars Australia is in the middle of a dealer restructure, having shed some dealers and taking on new ones that would be better-equipped to handle the kind of volume the new sedan will generate.

“Our plan is to recruit the best dealer network available. We are not going to expand at all cost, it will be a matter of only signing dealers who are committed and eager to be a part of growing the brand,” Mr Startari said.

It is not yet clear whether Proton Australia will adopt the Saga nameplate for the new sedan or whether the company will take on a more marketable title.

Mr Startari was not prepared to discuss the equipment level of the new sedan, but did confirm that it would not be a stripped-out special.

“It will be comparable to cars currently on the market,” he said.

Proton Cars Australia has had a difficult start to 2009, with year-to-date sales down 38.9 per cent on 2008.

The new sedan could not come at a better time for the brand, which is currently averaging only 100 sales a month. If it lived up to expectations, the new sedan would add around 166 sales to the monthly tally.

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