Saturday, June 28, 2008


Gas for ALL Proton cars


National carmaker Proton yesterday launched a “zero-defect” campaign aimed at erasing a reputation for poor quality that has left it struggling to compete against foreign competitors. Proton Managing Director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir also announced plans to fit all models with natural gas tanks from October to help motorists beat the rising cost of fuel. The move follows a 41 percent petrol price hike this month. However, the carmaker is pushing ahead with plans to roll out its first multi—purpose vehicle (MPV) next March, saying there was also demand for the gas- guzzling models, which are popular with large Malaysian families. In an emotional plea to some 5,000 employees, Syed Zainal a 45-year- old engineer who took the helm two years ago — urged them to focus on quality control, which is critical to profitability and overseas exports. “If we produce cars with defects, consumers will get fed up with us. With the recent fuel hike, consumers want quality cars. They have high expectations,” he said at Proton’s assembly plant west of Kuala Lumpur. “Let’s unite. Let’s work together in a sincere manner so that we can achieve profit for the company,” he said. Syed Zainal said some 60 per cent of defects in Proton cars were due to poor quality components from vendors, but admitted the rest of the blame fell on the firm’s workforce. “Today, we want to focus on rebuilding the company. The focus is putting Proton on a better footing, to improve quality, product and profit. We need to be prepared to compete globally,” he said. Syed Zainal said Proton had secured Government approval to give buyers the option of purchasing vehicles powered with natural gas. “It will be in all Proton cars by October. It is part of our plan to support the Government to reduce the dependency on oil,” he said. He insisted that despite the changing mood over energy consumption, Proton’s new MPV will be popular. “Proton needs the MPV model. People’s lifestyle has changed. The price will be affordable,” he said. Proton said in February it had made nit profits for two quarters in a row, thanks to lower operating costsaitd increased car sales. However, it still booked a net loss of 3192 million ringgit (10 million dollars) for the nine months to December, although it was smaller than the 590.448 million ringgit loss a year earlier. According to Syed Zainal, Proton had always emphasised quality control in all aspects of its operations but it was now drawing on lessons from the past toM ensure current levels of quality control were stepped up. “As we prepare our globalisation strategy, there is a need to strengthen quality control to meet international standards,” he said. “In this respect, Proton will work closely with all our vendors as 60 per cent of components come from them,” he said. Syed Zainal said Proton had recently established a monitoring system to identify defects on the production line to respond faster to problems of defective components. He said Proton was looking to further tap the markets in Asean, China, India and the Middle East. “The high number of bookings for the Persona and Saga to date is reflective of growing customer confidence with regards to Proton’s new commitment to quality,” he said. — AFP, Bernama