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Proton gears up for Australian relaunch

Proton is readying a rebirth in the Australian market now that the Malaysian carmaker is co-owned by Chinese automotive conglomerate Geely, who also counts Volvo, Lotus, Polestar and Lynk & Co under its umbrella.

Local sales of Proton models – including the Exora, Preve and Suprima S – have come to a near-halt recently, with just a single new registration last year after sliding from 421 units in 2015.

However, with Geely in control of Proton and snapping up 49 percent of the carmaker, plans are underway to rebadge China-sourced vehicles, as well as develop fresh models, for Australian market consumption.

"I would look closely at what Proton are up to," Geely head of international PR Ash Sutcliffe told journalists at last week’s Shanghai motor show. "Proton may be planning a return to Commonwealth nations in the near future."

Mr Sutcliffe singled out Proton’s expertise in right-hand-drive development would complement Geely’s vast production resources.

"Proton have a lot of experience in developing right-hand-drive cars, and their chassis and platform development is really helpful for Geely," he said.

"For example, we do a lot of testing in Malaysia that we can’t do in China – hot-weather testing, when it’s cold here we can go there, and they have fantastic facilities, and they’ve got a lot of talent in developing right-hand-drive cars. So the match together is quite good."

The first Geely-sourced vehicle to launch internationally last year was the Proton X70 mid-size SUV, a rebadged Bo Yue, which Mr Sutcliffe said has given the Malaysian brand a shot in the arm.

However, the X70 is only a stop-gap solution, with future Proton models expected to be jointly developed with Geely, according to Mr Sutcliffe, though no timeline is yet set.

As for Geely’s freshly-minted Geometry electric vehicle (EV) brand, Australian and South-East Asian market consideration is currently underway, which will be finalised in the next two years.

Do you think Proton has a chance of success in Australia with Geely’s backing? Tell us what you think in the comments below.