In Malaysia, it is safe to say that everyone knows Proton. Proton is one of the two local car manufacturer, the other being Perodua. It is also “known” for churning out cars that needs to have power window motor replaced yearly. It’s also for manufacturing cars that need to have door handles replaced yearly as well. Yes, sadly, many people do not have a good opinion of Proton these days.
Even after Proton’s quality have improved dramatically over the last few years, it is not enough to convince many. <-- I know this because I've personally owned a few Proton cars and I know Proton has improved a lot. But, like many, I don't think Proton can survive an open market. Not in its current state/ form. Proton does not enjoy a good reputation. Its pricing is not competitive (in an open market). It will not be able to compete against the like of Toyota, Honda, Kia or even VW and BMW. To survive, Proton needs to focus fully on electric cars.
Proton cannot continue to compete in the present petrol/ hybrid market. It needs to differentiate and plan for the future. With the focus on electric cars, Proton is helping to reduce the greenhouse effect. An early start will also give Proton the “pioneer” status and (hopefully) be one of the “leaders” in this new market.
A few years back, Proton was supposedly working with Detroit Electric on this, but somehow, nothing has emerged. It is a shame that so many years passed (indications point to discussion going as far back as 2008) and we never did hear about an electric car from Proton.
Even if the partnership with Detroit Electric did not go through, Proton could easily look at Tesla.
Tesla Motor’s (electric) technology is “open source”. While I’m not sure what are the terms and conditions, I am sure that there’s actually no harm trying.
And like Tesla, Proton could perhaps also look into supporting industries — batteries and even solar.
Existing service centers can be converted into charging stations, or maybe consider swappable battery where the existing service centers can be the place to swap batteries. Going further, if planned properly, these service centers can be “open” and allow other brands to use them (with the right converters).
If Proton does not make the change quick enough, in the end, it will just be another “follower”. And a follower status is definitely not going to help Proton survive.