Proton’s sales grew at a stable rate in the first decade, but plunged in 1998 due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Nonetheless, Proton bounced back and recorded its highest ever sales volume in 2002 at 214,373 units. Sales gradually decreased in the following five years due to cheaper and more competitive offerings from Perodua. Proton’s sales have recovered slightly since 2008, but their market share is in a current state of decline. Proton has sold over 3,500,000 cars in Malaysia between 1985 and 2013.
The first Proton, the Saga saloon launched in July 1985 amid positive reception, but poor sales due to Proton’s inability to meet the high demand. However, Proton later captured a 47% Malaysian market share in the following year, with 24,148 cars sold. The company’s market share later grew to 65% in 1987; 85% in the Under 1,600cc segment. Proton maintained a majority market share in the following years, which peaked in 1993 at 74% with over 94,100 units sold. Automobile sales in Malaysia plunged from 404,000 units in 1997 to 163,851 in 1998 due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Proton’s revenue and profits were severely affected, but a majority market share was still maintained into the early 2000s.
The mid-2000s witnessed a sharp decline in Proton’s revenues and sales. In 2006, Proton’s market share was 32%, down from 40% in 2005. Proton lost its majority domestic market share for the first time in 20 years to Perodua, the second Malaysian automobile manufacturer. Factors which contributed to the fall of Proton included the revision of the National Automotive Policy (NAP), Proton’s newer indigenously designed models (i.e. the Proton Waja, Gen-2 and Savvy) which were poorly designed and manufactured compared to the former Mitsubishi-based Protons and stronger competitors, specifically Perodua with their best-selling Myvi which launched in 2005. Both Proton’s total sales volume and market share failed to recover to its pre-2002 figures and Perodua remained the domestic market leader from 2006 onwards.
A comparison of Proton & Perodua sales in the domestic market. Perodua, which started out in 1994 as a complement and not a competitor to Proton has overtaken the latter to become Malaysia’s best selling automobile manufacturer. Perodua cars manage to sell in greater numbers due to their cheaper pricing range, in which there are few competitors, as well as their inheritance of generally better designs from their parent company, Toyota.
Sales of Proton cars grew at a stable rate in the latter half of the 2000s and in the early 2010s. The company briefly regained the top-spot from Perodua in June 2009, after the introduction of the Proton Exora MPV. Proton also matched Perodua’s market share in the first quarter of 2011. Factors which contributed to the rise of Proton were well-designed cars which catered to the needs of the domestic market (i.e. the Proton Persona, second generation Saga and Exora) in addition to better management of the company under the then Managing Director, Syed Zainal Abidin. However, despite the improvements made between 2007 and 2012 in addition to improved overall sales, Proton’s Malaysian market share continued to decrease. In 2011, the company had a 26.4% (158,657 units) share which plummeted further to 22.5% (141,121 units) in 2012. In comparison, Perodua retained a majority market share of 30.1% (189,137 units) in 2012, with Toyota maintaining its third place at a 16.8% share with 105,151 units sold.
Proton’s decline in market share has stabilized as of 2013. In the first-half of last year, Proton sold 64,782 cars, representing 20.7% of the market share, a decline of 1.8% over its full-year 2012 share. However, by the end of 2013, Proton had managed to raise its market share to 21.2% with a total of 138,753 units sold. Nonetheless, Proton’s market share has still declined by an overall 1.3% between 2012 and 2013. In July 2013, Proton sold around 16,600 cars, which accounted for 25% in market share during that specific month, the company’s highest ever in 2013. Perodua on the other hand sold around 19,200 or 2,600 more cars than Proton in July 2013. The rise in Proton’s sales were attributed to the launch of the Proton Saga SV, a cheaper variant of the second best-selling car in Malaysia.
Another factor which continues to play a significant role in the sales of Proton cars is the National Automotive Policy (NAP), enforced by the Malaysian government in the interests of Proton, Perodua, Naza and foreign brands with manufacturing plants in Malaysia. Under the NAP, imported vehicles are subjected to varying degrees of import and excise duties depending on the vehicle’s origin of manufacture and engine displacement. Vehicles imported from members of the ASEAN such as Thailand and Indonesia are subject to the least import duties, whereas those from Europe suffer the worst. However, imported hybrid vehicles and cars purchased in duty-free Langkawi are exempted from the import duties. The NAP ensures the survival of Proton and other Malaysian-made vehicles under a biased playing field in the Malaysian market. Nonetheless, the import duties of the NAP have been progressively revised and reduced in line with the eventual liberation of the market. In March 2013, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Malaysia) announced that vehicles manufactured in Australia and Japan will face a gradual reduction of import duties in stages to zero by 2016. Proton however responded positively to the announcement, citing their recent positive developments such as the 5-star ANCAP safety recognition of the Proton Prevé as part of their commitment to progress.