Malaysian national carmaker Proton has begun local assembly trials of its X70 Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) at its manufacturing plant in Tanjung Malim, the company said on Wednesday.
The vehicle, jointly manufactured with China's Geely, will be put together at Proton's new 1.2 billion ringgit (290 million U.S. dollars) assembly plant, which is currently in its final stages of completion, said Proton chairman Syed Faisal Albar who spoke during a signing ceremony at the plant.
"Proton aims to start the production of the X70 in Tanjung Malim in the second half of this year so we are working hard to ensure we hit the target," he said, adding that it was significant this was achieved within two years of cooperation.
Syed Faisal also said Proton had seen its sales jump from the fourth place on the Malaysian market to the second during the second quarter of this year, attributing this to the introduction of the X70, with its advanced features, to the Malaysian automotive market.
He added that Proton's partnership with Geely had proven to be a shining example of cooperation between both countries and urged China to use Malaysia as a gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with its population of 650 million.
Geely acquired 49.9 percent of Proton from Malaysia's leading conglomerate DRB-HICOM that owned 100 percent of Proton in 2017. The X70 was the first product of the partnership and has been a hit in the Malaysian market after being launched in December.
China's Industry and Information Technology Minister Miao Wei, who was present at the ceremony, said the joining hands of Geely and Proton set a good example for the win-win cooperation between China and Malaysia.
Miao urged both companies to seize the opportunities provided by the Belt and Road Initiative to deepen cooperation in research and development, technology, production, service, in an effort to bring up products that would not only cater both Chinese and Malaysian markets but also become competitive in the third markets.
Wednesday also saw the signing ceremony of a joint venture agreement between Proton Edar Sdn Bhd, Altel Communications Sdn Bhd and eCarX (Hubei) Technology Co. Ltd, China to develop digital technology and car connectivity systems.
Also present were Geely's chairman Li Shufu and Proton chief executive officer Li Chunrong along with members of Proton's senior management.
The signing was followed by a guided tour through the plants assembly line, giving an insight into the current progress of the plant and a look into its automated assembly line, which will allow a large volume of vehicles to be manufactured efficiently.