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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Are Proton vehicles better than they used to be?

Proton's recent quality control standards have been better than what they used to be but are the cars better than they were a decade ago?
Has Proton changed its ways? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Proton vehicles were famous for dodgy build quality. Electrical systems that worked only when they felt like it, mechanicals that would wear out quickly and trim panels that fell apart within months of use.
I should know as I honed my driving skills in one – a Proton Wira SE. Within months of buying the car, the rear wiper stopped working, reverse sensors went on leave indefinitely and trim panels in the cabin lost the will to stick together.
The car’s only saving grace was the Mitsubishi sourced mechanicals. It ran pretty well regardless of how much it was abused and the performance of the engine was pretty decent albeit that could have been due to the raspy exhaust note, which amplified the driving enjoyment.
This brings me to my question, has Proton learned from its past and put steps in place to rectify QC issues? Has it realised that the Malaysian people and not its UK customers are its most loyal followers and the reason for its financial health growth?
In the mid 2000s Proton seemed poised to be a worthy Asian competitor with the introduction of the Waja, Gen2, Savvy, Saga BLM, Satria Neo and Persona vehicles. The automaker no longer relied on Mitsubishi to deliver the goods. For the first time in decades, Proton was standing on its own two feet. There were problems along the way as their cars were still plagued by build quality issues (uncooperative power windows) but as a whole, progress was being made.
Then came the Inspira, a mere rebadged Mitsubishi. It felt like déjà vu, just like it did in the 1990s, rebadging the Lancer of that era and calling it the Wira, Proton was back to its old ways. The company did try to justify its actions by stating volume of vehicles in that segment couldn’t justify plans of building a car from scratch. Unfortunately, most Malaysians saw it as Proton wanting easy money.
Then came the Preve and the Suprima S. On paper both cars were a monumental step forward from what Proton were used to offering. Impressive interiors, loads of equipment and a turbocharged engine that had the oomph most Protons lacked with the exception of the Perdana V6. But in reality, the cars have fallen short of expectations. Early adopters have found the CFE engine’s performance, overtime, less than stellar. It isn’t uncommon to see black smoke spewing out of the exhaust tip, a clear indication of the turbo consuming oil.
The Koreans were smart, in order to appeal the global market, they worked tirelessly to offer the best designs, pack each model with as much technology as possible and then find a way to sell their products at cut throat prices. By doing this they managed to undercut the competition while offering more features. Despite the Japanese’s best efforts, their cars have gained significant popularity.
Despite DRB-HICOM’s financial help, Proton will not be able to replicate the Korean success but it can take certain cues from them. Keep customers happy by offering the best product possible. That’s all that is needed. No Malaysian expects a Proton to compete with the Japanese and Germans on a level playing field, but it can do so. Just cut out the lacklustre manufacturing practices and entertaining incompetent vendors. A car built with reliability in mind is what is needed these days. It doesn’t matter if there is no reverse camera, as long as the car starts, goes and stops without issues for several years, it’s a good car!
Quality has improved since the early years but sadly not as much as we would have wanted. With DRB-HICOM’s financial backing Proton can be a worthy global competitor, but the question is do they want to be one?

-Yahoo News & Motor Trader

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