On this day in auto history – May 7th

Fri 7th May 2021

It was on this day in 1983 that the Malaysian car manufacturer Proton was officially founded, following the wishes of former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamed who wanted to enhance Malaysian industry by creating a national car project.

Originally, Proton drew heavily from Mitsubishi using the Japanese company’s parts and technology whilst basing most of its cars on existing Mitsubishi models, including the well-received Proton Saga which first rolled off the production line in July 1985.

The Saga was a smash hit domestically and also enjoyed some success in the export market, particularly so in the UK where the Proton brand was a surprise success during the early 1990’s due to its competitive pricing and comparative reliability. During its 1992 zenith, the Saga was actually ranked among the top 20 best-selling cars in the UK.

However, with subsequent models failing to find the mark, Proton experienced a sharp decline in UK sales during the noughties and, after a mere 208 were sold in 2012, the brand was withdrawn from the UK entirely.

Though still popular in its native Malaysia, Proton is currently undergoing a transformation process as part of a long-term turnaround plan which is aimed at helping the brand recapture an international presence.