Earlier this week, a research report said that Proton is expecting to reach sales of 310,000 units by 2030 and 500,000 units by 2035, which will put the Geely-powered brand No.1 in Malaysia and No.3 in ASEAN. But there’s an issue with that. To be at the top, you first need to dislodge the incumbent – there really is no other way.
The incumbent in question is of course Perodua, which has of late seen year after year of record sales. Last year, the market leader shifted a record 282,019 units, topping the previous all-time high of 240,341 units, set in 2019 before the pandemic struck. Last year’s record marked a return to business as usual after the world and the economy took a pause.
Perodua’s sales target for this year would be another personal best, and it’s well on track to surpass the mark, which is 314,000 units. Yes, the amount of cars Proton wants to sell in 2030, achieved in 2023 (if the Hong Leong Investment Bank research report is accurate).
At the sidelines of the 2023 Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo, Perodua president and CEO Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Ahmad revealed that Q3 2023 sales is 22% higher year-on-year (bear in mind that last year was a record) at 88,537 units ‘as production factors go on overdrive’. For the first nine months of the year, P2 registered 233,227 units, which is 18.8% higher y-o-y.
It’s a unique scenario, but P2 generally sells whatever it can produce, which means that sales is limited by how many cars the two plants in Sg Choh can roll out. It’s no surprise then that the company attributes the Q3 sales jump to improvements in production operational efficiency – 91,528 cars were produced in Q3, 17.8% higher y-o-y. Year-to-date production is up 15.7% y-o-y to 245,341 units.
If P2 maintains this pace, it will surpass the 314k target with room to spare, but instead, the company is gearing up for a sprint to the finish.
“The third quarter of 2023 is our starting point in terms of increasing monthly production above 30,000 units per month as supplies of raw materials and parts can now catch up with demand. This increase in production shows the potential of the Malaysian automotive ecosystem as they further improve their economies of scale without sacrificing quality and cost efficiency,” Zainal said. Of P2’s models, the Bezza and Alza have waitlists.
He added that the production and sales outlook for the final quarter of 2023 will be at their highest in the company’s history. “We remain committed to reducing our customers’ waiting period. We believe that the waiting period from January 2024 onwards would be better managed,” Zainal said.
Making the difference for P2 is the Bezza. The Myvi used to be the ‘king’ of sales for Malaysia and Perodua, but the G3 facelift is now in third for both. With 65,158 units sold as of Q3 2023, the Bezza is Malaysia’s outright best selling vehicle, both in Q3 and YTD September, never mind segment wars. For context, it’s nearly 14k units ahead of the Axia, which is just ahead of the Myvi. Bezza sales is a whopping 41.3% higher y-o-y with one quarter to go.
It’s an unlikely hero because the Bezza is the oldest car in P2’s range – the compact sedan was launched back in July 2016 and is still in its first generation, having received a facelift in early 2020. Sibling Axia has since moved into the DNGA era, but the Bezza remains, not just surviving but thriving. Wouldn’t have guessed, would you?