PROTON Holdings, the Malaysian carmaker backed by China’s Geely Automobile Holdings, has unveiled the South-east Asian country’s first homemade electric vehicle brand.

Proton announced its EV brand, e.MAS, on Wednesday (Jun 12) in Kuala Lumpur, with the first cars expected to roll off the production line by the end of 2025.

The vehicles will be made at Proton’s existing factory in Perak, north of the capital, which itself is transforming into an EV hub with a US$10 billion investment from Geely.

“Proton must change to remain relevant,” CEO Li Chunrong said. “Every major economy is replacing combustion engine cars with EV technology.”

Proton is 49.9 per cent owned by Geely while its Malaysian partner DRB-Hicom owns the remainder.

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest step in Geely’s effort to gain share in Malaysia’s small-but-growing EV market. Last year, it introduced Smart – a brand it co-owns with Mercedes-Benz Group – in a bid to take on global EV leaders BYD and Tesla – both of which already sell cars in the country. Those Smart EVs are imported from China.

Friday, 8.30 am

Asean Business

Business insights centering on South-east Asia’s fast-growing economies.

While Smart is a more premium offering with prices starting at RM189,000 (S$54,145) – on par with a Tesla 3 – the e.MAS will have “competitive pricing for all Malaysians,” according to Proton’s senior director for strategy, Yusri Yusuf.

Currently, the cheapest EV sold in Malaysia is BYD’s Dolphin, which starts at RM99,900. Proton’s existing combustion engine models sell from RM34,800.

Geely’s fully-owned Zeekr Intelligent Technology Holding EV brand – which went public in the US last month – will also be introduced in Malaysia later this year, according to reports from China.

Malaysia hopes that electric cars can make up 15 per cent of total sales by 2030 to help it achieve its 2050 net zero ambitions.

The country’s EV sales more than tripled in 2023, climbing from 2,631 units in 2022 to 10,159 units. However that growth is from a low base, with total EVs only projected to make up 2 per cent of total sales this year.

Proton has already appointed 17 dealers for its e.MAS brand, and expects to have a total of 20 by the end of the year.

According to a local media report, the chief executive of Proton Edar – Proton’s distributor arm – said that Proton is working on five EV models based on its Global Modular Architecture, which it developed with Geely. BLOOMBERG

Read More