SHAH ALAM: Proton Holdings Bhd has formalised a deal to sell and service electric vehicles (EVs) in Malaysia and Thailand from smart Automobile Co Ltd (smart) through a general distributorship agreement.
With the agreement, Proton will be the exclusive distributor in the two countries for smart, which is a premium EV joint-venture company between German-based Mercedes-Benz and China-based Geely Group.
Proton said the first model of the imported EVs by smart would be available in Malaysia in the fourth quarter of 2023.
“We have made an official request for the government to consider an extension of the excise duties and tax incentives for EVs.
“It would give the people a chance to enjoy the smart #1 at a reasonable and affordable price.
“We need this, as it takes some time for us to develop the completely built up unit,” Proton’s deputy chief executive officer Roslan Abdullah told a media briefing here yesterday.
“It’s still some time away, but we will usually open for bookings one month before the launch, but we will announce it when the time comes.
“It is a premium product and when it is compared with other EV brands – it’s difficult to imagine that it would be priced below RM150,000 per car,” he added.
Proton aims to sell between 800 and 1,000 of smart EVs per year in Malaysia, according to Roslan.
“The car will be sold under the smart brand and not rebadged as Proton. We are targeting buyers of between 25 and 35 years old or those who are those young at heart and who “The car will be sold under the smart brand and not rebadged as Proton. We are targeting buyers of between 25 and 35 years old or those who are young at heart and can afford cars that are priced above RM200,000,” he added.
He also said smart would be available in Thailand in the second half of 2024.
“We have to ensure that our product offerings are competitive if we were join the market in Thailand.”
He explained that the company would need to assess the competitive landscape in Thailand in terms of customer expectations of EV products.
Proton CEO Li Chunrong said: “This marks a big step for Proton’s entry into the new energy vehicle market.
“The first phase of the business with smart is focused on retailing. It will also provide knowledge and experience on servicing and charging the EVs.
“The move into this market segment will also help drive Proton to be more environmental friendly in all facets of our operations as we help Malaysia to achieve its carbon neutrality target by 2050,” Li pointed out. Proton’s collaboration with smart would also pave the way for the company to enter the new energy vehicle market.
The company also announced plans to invest in an EV charging network including the installation of domestic units for customers to charge their vehicles at home.
“We have been engaging with seven or eight promoters of the EV infrastructure for home and public charging,” said Proton senior director for corporate strategy and risk management Yusri Yusuf.
“For public charging, we are engaging with government agencies. It is very important to realise the roadmap towards EV industrialisation,” he added.
To address “distance anxiety” of owning an EV, Roslan said a team has been set up within Proton to explore the possibility of having mobile charging stations to fill in the gaps before the country can have an adequate charging network.
Proton also has plans to duplicate smart’s global retail operations in Malaysia.
“Therefore, there will be an emphasis on the integrated digital lifestyle encompassing journey planning, charging availability and purchase considerations,” the company said.The distribution of smart is one of the steps to ensure greater environmental, social and governance (ESG) compliance, according to the company.
“Our ESG plans are not just limited to selling smart. It also includes the installation of solar panels and other overall vehicle programmes.
“We believe these will help improve our ESG ratings eventually,” Yusri said.