Celebrating 35 glorious years

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 18 Jul 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: As the Proton Saga marks its 35th anniversary, some employees of the national carmaker recalled their sacrifices in the early days when the model was first rolled out.

Senior clerk Gurdeep Singh Amreek Singh, who joined Proton as a 23-year-old in 1985 at its plant in Shah Alam, said: “When I told people that I joined the national car company, many doubted Malaysia had the ability to manufacture cars.”

The father of three from Ipoh worked in a tool shop there for two years prior to taking up the job at Proton.

“I used to cycle 30km from my house to the tool shop every day and whenever it rained, I would really envy those who drove and wondered to myself when I could buy a car.

“Who would have thought I would end up in a car company?

“Initially, I was half-hearted, but my grandfather convinced me otherwise. Little did I know that I would be with Proton until now,” he added.

Gurdeep first set eyes on the Proton Saga 1.5 Megavalve which was priced at RM15,000, with the entry-level Saga 1.3 sold for RM13,000. Back then, the air conditioner was an added option.

“Considering that it has been 35 years, it is a wonder how this model can be priced below RM40,000 today,” added the faithful employee who retires in two years.

Another Proton employee with fond memories of the Saga is Proton vehicle programme executive Desmond John Pinto.

His first Proton was a Wira Aeroback Millenium Edition.

“It had a 1.6 litre engine and leather seats. I had that for a good seven years,” said the father of an eight-month-old girl.

Originally from Negri Sembilan, Pinto said this was his most memorable car as he bought it with his savings.

Pinto worked overseas for 11 years, before returning to join Proton as a vehicle programme executive in 2018.

“Initially, I had no intention of returning to Malaysia any time soon,” said the 44-year-old.

“Based on my experience, the Saga was a very challenging project, because it had to be very affordable for a cost-conscious market.

“Malaysians also had very high expectations of the Saga,” he said, adding that it was a juggling act managing between the needs of the market, quality and cost.

Pinto said the Saga carved a niche for itself as a “robust, uncomplicated and value-for-money” car.

“That principle still holds true today,” he added.

Throughout the 35 years since the Saga nameplate was launched, he said the model had been well received by Malaysians.

The current Saga model sells about 4,000 units a month compared with the previous generation’s 2,000 units per month.

To mark its 35th anniversary this year, Proton recently launched the Saga Anniversary Edition priced at RM39,300. Bookings are now open.

Proton is hopeful that its Saga would be well-received in other parts of the world too, with the national carmaker looking to market the car to Egypt, Pakistan and Kenya among others.

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