Proton currently sells two different types of cars – the indigenously-developed Persona, Iriz, Exora, and Saga, as well as the rebadged, Geely-developed X70. While they share a few design cues and features like the Geely Key User Interface (GKUI), they are still distinctly separate products. That may not be the case in the near future, however, as the company promises a convergence in the way they look.
Speaking to us in an interview today, Proton’s head of design, Azlan Othman, said that the future lineup would be more harmonious, with the in-house models being radically different from what they are now. “There will come a point where the “legacy” cars will not be the cars you are familiar with today. They may retain the name, but not the look.”
To do that, the company is developing new platforms that will underpin its next homegrown cars. These are being built in collaboration with Geely, although it’s unclear if Proton will get access to the Chinese carmaker’s B-segment Modular Architecture (BMA) and Compact Modular Architecture (CMA).
The new cars will be more distinctive in terms of design. Today’s X70 features minimal aesthetic changes over the Geely Boyue, and these elements have been adapted to fit the company’s other models through their respective facelifts. Azlan said that this conservative approach was down to the pressure to develop new products that would generate sales volume and profit.
As such, Proton initially focused on developing cars quickly to suit the ongoing market conditions, so design took a back seat. However, Azlan promised a more adventurous look for future models. “[Our work] now is going into those [cars] to come up with something extraordinary.”
Building cars from the ground up is important for Proton to become Geely’s right-hand-drive hub, Azlan said, and the company remains committed to making next-generation cars for the Southeast Asian region, including countries like Thailand and Indonesia. To amortise the cost of developing the new platforms, the company is offering them to Geely to help create vehicles that could enter new market segments.
“When you think about China, you think SUVs and big cars, right? No one [there] is really looking to build efficient people movers or small cars, because they think the Chinese don’t want them. But we feel differently,” he said.
As for when we can expect the new cars to come to showrooms, Azlan declined to give a specific timeframe, but he said that they will come “sooner rather than later, hopefully.”