Proton today delivered its new Perdana model, specially built for government use, to the Prime Minister at his office in Putrajaya. The delivery was made by the Executive Chairman of Proton, Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Jamil, and is the first of 3,000 units that the carmaker will build. The first batch consists of 200 units which will have 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre engines.
According to Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil, the day’s event signifies a very important milestone for Proton after being given the mandate by the Government to produce a new Perdana for the Malaysian Government.
“The Proton Perdana delivered today is part of a development program undertaken by Proton with its collaborative partner, Honda Japan Ltd. This is the first phase of the program between Proton and renowned Honda of Japan, pursuant to the Collaborative Agreement entered between the two parties late last year,” he said.
The new Perdana is adapted from the Honda Accord (in the same way that the Proton Inspira was adapted from the Mitsubishi Lancer). That Proton chose this approach to provide a new Perdana for the government fleet is said to be due to the short time that was available to come up with a replacement model.
“This is a short-term solution to replace the aging Perdana currently being used by the Government officials, and Proton was given just 8 months to do this. But even with such short request time, we were up for the challenge – and through sheer dedication and hard work, we are here today to present the completed Perdana,” said Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil.
“We are truly grateful to the Prime Minister and the Malaysian Government for keeping their faith in Proton, and for giving us the opportunity to once again be the provider of the official Government vehicle. I represent all Warga PROTON when I say that this moment serves as inspiration and motivation for us to work even harder than ever, to continue leading the national automotive industry,” he added.
The Perdana replacement model slated for use by the Federal Government comes under Phase One of Proton’s plans to develop a new D-segment model. The carmaker has already began Phase Two of the programme which involves the further development of the D-segment model under a platform-sharing initiative with Honda. This will have a completely new interior with exterior changes which will be unveiled to the Malaysian market in 2016. This would mean that Proton will, at a later stage, offer the model for sale to the Malaysian public and not restrict it to just government sales.
“Being in all significant market segments is important for Proton in order to regain its No. 1 position in the industry. Having presence in the new D-segment market, represented by the Perdana flagship model, will certainly support Proton’s turnaround plan and future growth in realizing Proton’s true potential to becoming a globally competitive automotive manufacturer,” declared Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil.
The original Perdana, launched in 1995, was adapted from the Mitsubishi Eterna, a mid-sized model that was sold in Japan in the early 1990s. Though many parts were imported, the model, being a Proton, received special tax exemptions that allowed it to be priced around RM85,000 at that time for a 2-litre executive sedan. It was no surprise that orders flooded in and the waiting list stretched to a year. At that time, comparable models from Toyota and Honda cost over RM100,000.
Towards the end of the 1990s, a more powerful version was added to the line-up. This not only had a more powerful Mitsubishi V6 2-litre engine but also received chassis tuning from Lotus Engineering, by then part of Proton. In 2003, it received cosmetic changes and other improvements, reflecting Proton’s growing capability to develop its own products. In time, the V6 version outsold the earlier version in total numbers.
Being Proton’s largest model, it was chosen to be the official government vehicle (as well as used by other agencies) and stretched variants built by ACE were also supplied for top officials like the Prime Minister.
Towards the end of its life, the Perdana came under fire due to its maintenance costs and the matter was even brought up in Parliament. Some state governments which used the model complained that maintenance costs were higher than some European and Japanese models they used. One of the known issues with the Perdana was its automatic transmission which a number of owners found to be problematic.
One recall which was made public was when Mitsubishi Motors had a major recall relating to a number of its models, including the Eterna. As the Perdana was a clone of the Eterna, Proton had to request owners to bring their cars in to replace certain components in the front suspension which might be defective.
About 20% of the 42,000 Perdanas sold up till then were believed to have required replacement of the lower lateral arm which was suspected to have a defective seal in the balljoint area.
From 2005 onwards, Proton began to plan for a replacement and at one stage, a large model sold by Mitsubishi in Australia was considered. During the long period of ‘discussion’ with Volkswagen, there was also expectation that the German carmaker might be able to offer a model or platform that could be used for the new Perdana. At one point a few years back when Proton was having discussions with Nissan, there was also a strong possibility of the Japanese carmaker providing its Fuga model as a replacement too. However, none of these worked out and it was only after reaching an agreement with Honda that Proton finally had a platform/model to adapt from for its new flagship.