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Proton strengthens Mitsubishi ties

Street-smart: Proton's all-new Savvy micro-car goes on sale on April 1.

The Malaysians will continue to rely on Mitsubishi components as more new models arrive

14 Feb 2006

PROTON and Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MMC) signed an agreement last week for the latter to supply the Malaysian company driveline and mechanical components.

MMC will co-operate in the development of future Proton vehicles, supply components, technical support for production engineering and quality control, and assist in the optimisation of Proton’s manufacturing facility.

The aims are for Proton to diversify its product range, achieve better quality and improve its manufacturing processes.

As wrangling over contractual issues continued in Kuala Lumpur late last week between the board and former chief executive Tengku Mahaleel, Proton Cars Australia representatives told GoAuto in Melbourne that the agreement between its parent company and Mitsubishi should help ensure more business for MMC in Malaysia. Currently it imports complete vehicles from Japan.

Proton has also relied on various Mitsubishi components such as engines and transmissions for a number of its vehicles since it commenced operations in 1985. This is despite MMC selling its 7.9 per cent equity in Proton almost two years ago.

The agreement comes just two weeks after Volkswagen in Germany announced there would be no joint-venture with Proton after the two sides discovered they had "different ideas" on what the each wanted, although there is still scope for some "support" on isolated projects between them.

According to Proton Cars Australia general manager of sales and marketing, Steven Thomas, VW’s announcement paved the way for Mitsubishi to come forward.

"We have had a strategic alliance with Mitsubishi that’s been in place for some years," he told GoAuto last week.

"And there’s been some debate about whether that will continue because of our negotiations with VW for an actual formal joint venture.

"Those discussions have fallen over so we’ve re-negotiated our relationship with Mitsubishi and we’ll continue to have a relationship with them for the supply of some driveline and mechanical components."Meanwhile, Proton will continue its new-model rollout, which from April 1 includes the Savvy five-door hatch unveiled in Melbourne.

The second-generation Satria will follow, springing from the Savvy platform and being pitched as a sportier three-door hatchback alternative.

To be offered with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine in regular and possibly turbocharged guises, the all-new Satria will have its world debut in May. An Australian launch is earmarked for September.

To aid Proton’s sales ambitions – which includes selling between 160 and 200 Savvy models per month – the company is planning to open four new dealerships this year, two each in Melbourne and Sydney.

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