Proton returns to profitability in 2019 – Li Chunrong


In December last year, Proton CEO Li Chunrong said that the carmaker could return to profitability in 2019. That’s now confirmed. At the company’s Chinese New Year media luncheon today, Li told that Proton is indeed back in the black, spurred by strong domestic sales in 2019.

However, the Proton chief could not disclose any figures as Proton is part of DRB-Hicom, which is a public listed company. Specifics will have to wait till the conglomerate releases its annual figures, which wouldn’t be too far away as DRB-Hicom has changed its financial year end from March 31 to December 31.

Undoubtedly, Proton had a very good 2019. The company announced earlier that it sold 100,821 units (domestic plus export) last year, an increase of 55.7% over 2018 figures. That’s also good enough to give it an overall market share of 16.7%, the highest since 2014. The official final tally will be released by MAA soon.

The sales target for 2020 is a minimum of 132,000 units, which would be a 32% jump. Powering Proton will be growing demand for the Saga facelift, the soon-to-be-launched CKD X70 and the debut of the “Proton X50” in the later part of the year. The smaller sibling to the X70 will start life as a locally assembled model, it has been confirmed.

Bullish sales target aside, Li also declared that Proton is aiming to top the sales charts in five different segments this year. Although he did not mention which segments Proton wants to lead, Li did say that the company has been at the top of a number of segments over the course of 2019. Notably, the X70 has been leading the “premium C-segment SUV segment” since the start of the year, while the Exora currently tops the C-segment MPV market.

Elsewhere, the Saga also led the A-segment sedan market at some points last year, and it’s set to continue the rivalry with the just-facelifted Perodua Bezza this year. We’re speculating that the other two classes could be those of the new X50 (B-segment SUV; Proton can always add a “premium” to the name should rivals prove pesky) and the Persona (B-segment sedan).

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