03 Apr 2023

- New NEV model plan confirmed during visit by MITI Minister to Zeekr facility
- Investment in AHTV by Geely and DRB-HICOM to facilitate move to become NxGV hub


Ningbo, 3 April 2023 - National carmaker PROTON’s move into the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) segment continued to gain momentum as YB Senator Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI), previewed a range of NEV models under Geely Group during a visit to Zeekr Intelligent Factory in Hangzhou Bay, Ningbo, China.


Founded in 2021, Zeekr, is a premium electric automobile brand owned by Geely Automobile Holdings that specializes in electric cars and operates on a user-oriented enterprise philosophy, in line with being a smart mobility technology company. The Zeekr Intelligent Factory maximizes the application of IR4.0 and 5G connectivity and epitomises the highest level of manufacturing efficiency. During the visit, the minister was given a tour of the facilities and held discussions with Geely and PROTON regarding the NEV and Intelligent Technology strategy, including a test drive session covering their comprehensive NEV product range – passenger cars, sports utility vehicles (SUV), lifestyle pick-ups and commercial vehicles.


The visit to Ningbo comes a day after the Malaysia – China Business Forum was held in Beijing for business leaders from both nations and was attended by YAB Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister of Malaysia. The event saw the signing of a Heads of Agreement (HOA) document between DRB-HICOM and Geely that sealed their commitment to jointly invest, manage, and develop the Automotive High Tech Valley (AHTV) in Tanjung Malim into a smart city and hub for Next Generation Vehicles (NxGV). Over the next 10 years, AHTV is expected to attract investments worth an estimated RM32 billion.


NEV model introduction plans expand to cover more segments

While traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) powered cars remain the mainstay of Proton’s model range in the next few years, the company has also established its NEV strategy for the near future. Concurrently, through the collaboration with Geely, PROTON continues to explore opportunities to accelerate NEV programs in line with the Government’s aspirations toward enhancing NEV traction, especially toward offering affordable and practical NEV models, as well as pursuing local manufacturing and ecosystem development of NEV in Malaysia.


The first step to be taken will be the launch of the Proton X90, the latest addition to the brand’s range of SUVs powered by a mild-hybrid version of its 1.5 TGDI engine. This will be followed by the Malaysian market introduction of the smart #1 by PRO-NET in Q4 of 2023. After the visit by the MITI minister, there are now plans to expand the range of offerings and include vehicle segments new to PROTON.


“I am pleased to highlight after five years into their partnership, PROTON and Geely have made great strides in bringing new products, technology, and investment to Malaysia. Following the signing of the HOA in Beijing on 1 April, it is now clear AHTV has great potential to attract RM32 billion of investment and today’s visit to Ningbo demonstrates the PROTON and Geely partnership will continue to prosper with the future implementation of NEV programmes. 


“We acknowledge the importance of Malaysia becoming the regional hub for NxGV products hence PROTON as the national brand will play an active role in contributing significantly towards achieving the nation’s goals. To be competitive, PROTON and the automotive ecosystem must invest in research and development (R&D), as well as advanced manufacturing processes. With progressive development of AHTV and constant engagement among stakeholders especially the Government of Malaysia, DRB-HICOM, Geely Group, PROTON and automotive ecosystem, these goals are within reach,” said Dato’ Sri Syed Faisal Albar, Chairman of PROTON.


Future investments planned for technology integration and intelligent technologies

Since 2018 with support from DRB-HICOM and GEELY, PROTON has invested more than RM3.3 billion as part of its performance turnaround initiatives, which covers product development, new technology integration, manufacturing expansion and human capital development especially in new and emerging technologies. With the development of AHTV, more investments are planned to focus on new products and technologies, including new energy solutions and intelligent technologies. The pursuance of transformation initiatives is particularly important for the company hence synergy with Geely in technology development is vital towards achieving the strategic goals.


As of today, steps have already been taken towards achieving PROTON’s long-term goals. A permanent office has been established at the Geely Automobile Research Institute (GRI) in Hangzhou Bay to facilitate all development activities between the engineering teams. The company has already assigned 18 engineers based to be based there on the first phase of R&D and NEV development programmes and more will be assigned soon, a move that will help accelerate the transfer of technology.


“PROTON is now in the second half of its ten-year business plan. Besides the hiccups caused by two years of pandemic control measures, we are pleased with the progress made so far. Over the next five years, we aim to work even more closely with Geely and expand our offerings as the market for NEVs grows. This in turn will help develop the national automotive ecosystem and push Malaysia towards its target of being an NxGV hub.


“We will also expand our focus to include other aspects that support the industry. For example, charging infrastructure development is a priority for NEVs so we will optimize synergy with Geely group of companies to enhance the NEV infrastructure for PROTON and the ecosystem in Malaysia,” said Dr. Li Chunrong, Chief Executive Officer of PROTON.