Proton made a major step in upgrading its engineering capabilities when it acquired a share in Group Lotus. Since the acquisition, personnel from Lotus are closely involved in Proton's new model development, with a team permanently based at the design and development centre in Malaysia.
Lotus is established as a specialist in the global automotive industry, both as a successful manufacturer of sports cars and as a leading engineering consultancy serving the major car-makers. These activities are built on a continuous heritage of success through innovation. The motorsport heritage remains important today, as the company's commitment to developing cars which offer superlative handling and performance, helps the company when designing road cars.
The purchase of Lotus Cars in 1997 was more than just a simple balance sheet acquisition. As a world leader in automotive engineering, Lotus has added genuine quality and expertise to all new Proton products.
The first signs of the partnership came in 1999 when Proton launched the Satria GTi. Lotus took the standard Satria 3-door hatchback and added a little Hethel magic. The result was a superb handling 'hot-hatch', capable of humbling some of the more well known brands. Even well respected car magazine, evo, was keen to award the car 4-stars, proclaiming that the Proton was a 'really satisfying drive'.
Keen to learn from the GTi experience, Proton was quick to use Lotus in the development of all subsequent car launches. In 2001, the Impian was the first Proton to be built on an in-house platform and the saloon car was graced with ride and handling not normally found on 4-door saloons.
The Lotus factor wasn't just confined to cars either. The Jumbuck was the first commercial vehicle in the world to be developed with the help of Lotus engineering. Certainly a different spin on the Lotus two-seater concept!
Perhaps the most significant car in Proton's history is the GEN-2, launched in the UK in September 2004. Not only is the car totally designed and engineered by Proton and Lotus, but it is powered by a CamPro engine; built by Proton with the help of Lotus. The current Satria Neo and Satria Neo Sport have the same Lotus input into the design, ride and handling and engine development.
State Of The Art Manufacturing
In 2005 Proton opened a second production facility in Malaysia to support the projected increase in both domestic and export sales. This new factory is based in Tanjung Malim at the purpose-built "Proton City". Mostly automated, with 180 robots, the Tanjung Malim plant is five times larger than Proton's existing facility in Shah Alam and incorporates the latest manufacturing systems and technology designed for better efficiency, productivity and quality.
The 1,280-acre site houses five main complexes; the engine shop, stamping shop, body shop, paint shop, and trim and final shop.
In its first year of operation, the facility produced approximately 150,000 units of Proton cars. It however, has the capacity to manufacture up to one million vehicles per year in comparison to the Shah Alam plant that is limited to only 230,000 units per year.
Designed to be flexible and operating on a 95 per cent productivity level, each production line in Tanjung Malim is capable of assembling vehicles on three different platforms and capable of producing up to nine different models at any one time. The production line at Tanjung Malim also benefits from an Automated Line Control (ALC) or error-proof system integrated to maintain higher efficiency and higher quality of cars. Operating on 85 per cent pass ratio compared to the existing 65 per cent pass ratio at Shah Alam, the new plant will see operational cost being reduced by 20 per cent.