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Friday, May 23, 2008
Initially the Persona will be only be offered with a single trim level and engine option – the GX grade with the basic Campro engine (less CPS but now with variable length intake maniford, IAFM) while the CPS-equipped version of the Campro is expected to be followed later in the year, expected to be named the GXR version. Both engines are improved versions of the current S4PH unit in the Gen.2
The market in Australia is slightly different, and without the protectionist tax regimes like in Malaysia, the Persona will be fielded against many formidable opponents in the C/D-segment such as the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Hyundai Elantra and even the entry-level specs Toyota Corolla. Persona however has one trick up its sleeve – its AUD 16,999 entry level price, and it comes standard with ABS, dual front airbags, huge 430-litres trunk, climate control and even reverse sensors. The latter two items are only available in the higher variants of its competitors.
Yes I know the ridiculously low list price will attract the attention of Malaysian readers. If you are an Australian graduate earning AUD 2,000 – 3,000 you can buy a brand new Persona with less than 5 months of your salary. We can bitch about Malaysian politics in other blogs.
It is also interesting to note that by September this year, the Gen.2 in Australia will be updated with a facelift, which has already been launched in Malaysia. But unlike Malaysia, the Gen.2 badge will be dropped and the car will only be referred to as the Persona hatch. This makes more sense from a marketing point of view as having the same name for the same car with only a different body-style will increase the vehicle’s familiarity among consumers. Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Suzuki SX4 etc, none of them have a different name for different body styles. But of course, the situation in Malaysia was a bit different.
Gen.2 / Persona hatch facelift with redesigned grille, smoked headlamps, new wheels and improved interior trim.
The Gen.2 (what the heck does the name meant anyway?!) was created during the controversial Tengku Mahalel’s era. When the current MD Syed Zainal came on board to fix the mess left by Tengku Mahalel, the Persona (code named project WRM 41, Gen.2 was project WRM44) was Syed Zainal’s first strategy to revive Proton. Prior to this, the Wira, which had somewhat limited export success was sold overseas as the Persona. Again, from a marketing point of view, it makes sense to maintain the same name to built on the familiarity. Thus the name Persona was adopted for the Gen.2 sedan / Wira-replacement model. Expect the Gen.2 badge to eventually be dropped in Malaysia too by the end of its model life.
Rumour has it that the Persona was developed alongside the Gen.2 hatch, and not as an after-thought with a trunk bolted on to the rear of the Gen.2. The spin doctors go on to say that Tengku Mahalel was never keen on the project, and thus it was “abandoned.” However, when Syed Zainal came on-board the original proposal was again tabled to the new MD, and the rest is history. It is a story not too difficult to believe as the period of time between Syed Zainal’s signing with Proton and the launch of the Persona was simply too short to re-engineer the vehicle’s platform.
And speaking of platform, the Persona / Gen.2 hatch were all developed from the GX platform first seen in the Waja, which was actually a loose copy of the Dutch NedCar Mitsubishi Carisma project – a joint project done with pre-Ford ownership Volvo that eventually spawned the Volvo S40 and V40. Note I said loose copy, it is not the same platform. At one time I was very annoyed by Mix.FM radio for harping on the similarity between Waja and Volvo S40 in one of their proud-to-be-Malaysian Merdeka ads. And by the way, a platform refers to more than the chassis, it also refers to the basic layout of main components like engine, transmission, HVAC vents, wiring looms, etc.
The next wave of Proton’s improvement will come in March 2009 – when Proton is expected to launch a 7-seater MPV. Details at the moment are very sketchy. Most of the information available on the internet are pretty useless with many airheads posting images of either a photo-shopped Mazda 8 or development mule with a Toyota Wish body. I understand that the GX platform used by the Waja (Impian) and Persona (and Gen.2) was designed to be adapted into a MPV. However, the MPV project did not materialise as Proton lacks the technical expertise to do the necessary adaptation.
Overseas speculations have mentioned that the MPV could include heavy involvement from Proton’s former technical partner Mitsubishi. Rumour has it that the Mitsusibhi Grandis will form the basis for Proton’s MPV. Other’s speculated that Mitsubishi GS platform (project Global Car) could be shared with Proton as Mitsubishi is in a difficult financial position. After-all the GS platform has been shared with Citroen and Peugeot for Citroen C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007. The GS platform currently forms the basis for Mitsubishi Outlander and Delica. Could the Delica D:5 be the basis for the Proton MPV?
Mitsubishi Delica D:5 - basis for the next Proton MPV?
However I find this rumour hard to believe as the previous MoU signed between Proton and Mitsubishi did not fall through, and the Perdana replacement project with Mitsubishi had also been abandoned.
Other rumoured future product plans for Proton include :
Satria (Neo) R3 by March 2009 (GTi version is not confirmed)
Waja replacement by 2010
Arena replacement (Jumpbuck II) by 2009 / 2010
Perdana replacement by 2011 (not Mitsubishi 380 or VW Passat)
Compact 5-seater Proton SUV by 2012
Satria R3 concept at the 2008 Melbourne Motor Show. The previous Satria GTi R3 was a stonkingly good car to drive, with many journalist even rating the previous GTi to be ahead of the Peugeot 207GTi in terms of driving satisfaction.
When Proton was still in active discussion with VW for cooperation, I understand that Proton installed 1 unit of the turbo-charged VW TFSI engine into a tuned Satria Neo R3 /GTi. Unfortunately the project was abandoned after the VW-Proton merger failed to materialise. How unfortunate. Imagine what a great car it would be.
Proton Arena / Jumpbuck
Insiders claim that the next Arena / Jumpbuck will be more “truck-like.” However I doubt it will be something like a Hilux as Proton lacks a ladder-frame chassis and 4WD transmission. For all the laughs the Arena got in Malaysia, the Arena actually sold quite well in Australia, which has a very active ute market. Australia’s NRMA Business Wise actually voted the Jumpbuck as the lowest cost commercial vehicle to own and operate. Ute’s are almost non-existent in Malaysia and most parts of the world as people will just move on to a proper one-tonne double cab pick-up truck. Sometimes by looking at Proton’s earlier product plans, I really wonder the sort of business logic Tengku Mahalel has…anyway the worst is over for Proton.
Typical utes favoured by Aussies. Seen here is the Ford Falcon ute.
The next 5-years will be a make or break year for Proton. The MPV desperately needs to hit the sweet spot of the MPV market – which means attacking the Indonesian market – the region’s largest MPV market, currently dominated by Toyota Avanza and Innova (Kijang). I would expect the Proton MPV to slot in between the two giants, and sell on its superior ride comfort from its car-based chassis and larger interior space.
The Avanza is offered in 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre engine while the Innova is comes with a 2.0-litre engine. Proton’s engine line-up currently includes a 1.3-litre and 1.6 Campro with either IAFM (some fancy-pancy variable induction system) and CPS (variable valve-timing like), with another 2.0 V6 unit from Mitsubishi. The 1.3-litre is definitely out for MPV application, while the a 1.6-litre’s torque characteristics makes it a very questionable candidate for load lugging purposes unless substantial re-engineering (major cost issue) is done. That leave’s the 2.0-litre unit from Mitsubishi left. So…my guess would be the Proton MPV would have the dimensions of a Nissan Grand Livina, but powered by a 2.0-litre engine. I could be dead wrong as the above are just my educated guess.
Appreciate if anyone could share more insider’s info by commenting below or e-mailing me at the address on the left bar.
Update : Waja Replacement Model by 2010
Posted by AutoIndustrie at 8:55 AM