Proton hybrid cars – What is the status?

Update 28th February 2012:

Another story involving Proton is highlighted by Rocky in his article – “Six million ringgit man”.

Something fishy is going on there.

Original article:

I was researching about hybrid cars after my sister wanted to own one and I came across news articles about Proton’s hybrid cars.

This is the first one:

Proton to invest RM1.6b on capex FY12

Posted on 14 June 2011

By Izwan Idris

SUBANG JAYA (May 26, 2011): Proton Holding Bhd, which made a net profit of RM61.64 million in its fourth quarter ended March 31, 2011(Q4), will invest RM1.6 billion in the current financial year on capital expenditure (capex) at home and at UK-based Lotus Group.

This is significantly higher than more than RM900 million spent on product development and facilities expansion made in FY11.

“This will be a big capex year for Proton. We are investing in the future,” group managing director Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin syed Mohamed Tahir said at a briefing yesterday.

He said the capex budget will be split in the middle between Proton and Lotus.

Proton is targeting to launch a new car next year, and is developing a Malaysian made alternative fuel propulsion system vehicle.

The company had obtained a government grant of RM270 million to pay for the research and development for this green vehicle.

Proton will deliver the first 30 units of hybrid as well as electric vehicles to the government next month.

Commercial rollout could happen as early as 2012.

Meanwhile, Lotus will require heavy investment to pay for its turnaround and development of new models targeted to be out by 2013.

Also in the pipeline is a plan to develop a “global small car” in what would be the first joint development between Proton and Lotus. No actual timeline for the project was given.

Syed Zainal said the increase in the capex will not affect Proton financial position. Proton’ cash balance stood at RM1.2 billion as at end-March.

The recovery, from below RM1 billion at the end of 2010, was propelled by improved inventory management at the group that also resulted in better performance.

For FY11, Proton made net profit of RM152.14 million on revenue of RM8.98 billion. Total sales volume reached 162,950 units, with exports up to 27,905 units.

An earlier news is this:

Govt in talks with Proton to supply hybrid cars to its officials

MIRI: Government officials will soon be provided with hybrid electric cars in another effort to go green.

The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry is now in discussions with Proton Holdings Bhd to replace the current fleet of government vehicles with hybrid cars, said its minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin.

“If we really want to see the country go green, the Government must take the lead and show by example. We cannot keep telling the people and the private sector to go green if we do not do the same,” he told The Star yesterday, explaining the rationale behind the change.

A hybrid vehicle uses two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle. It combines an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors.

Chin said vehicles using electric engines could save up to 40% of fuel and also drastically cut down on carbon emission.

He pointed out that the abolishment of import and excise duties for electric vehicles under Budget 2011 would see a big drop in prices.

“The present price of electric vehicles manufactured by Toyota is about RM175,000 in Malaysia because of the import and excise duties.

The hybrid cars will be jointly developed by Fraser – Nash Research:

Proton hybrid electric fleet for pilot run in January

KUALA LUMPUR: National car maker Proton will roll out its first fleet of hybrid electric vehicles in January for a pilot run before mass production begins in 2012, officials said Thursday.

Proton began testing prototypes two months ago in Britain and will conduct further tests in Malaysia before launching a fleet of 30 to 50 vehicles in mid-January for use by the government, said Nordiana Nordin, the company’s head of government liaison and infrastructure.

“We have a target of 2012 for mass production but it’s subjected to the fleet test program,” she told The Associated Press.

State-owned Proton is diversifying its business to boost its fading fortunes. It returned to the black in the financial year ended March, but its domestic market share has dwindled to under 30 percent from more than two-thirds just over five years ago due to greater competition.

Proton’s hybrid car is being developed with its British technology partner Fraser-Nash Research Ltd., its British unit Lotus, and South Korea’s LG, officials said.

Fourth news is this:

Proton delivers first batch of electric cars to Government

PUTRAJAYA: Proton has handed over the first batch of electric vehicles (EV) to the Government for testing and expects to mass produce them in two years.

The cars three Saga EVs and five Exora REEV or Range Extender Electric Vehicle will be used by the Prime Minister’s Department and four other ministries.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak received the vehicles from Proton chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh at the Perdana Putra building here yesterday.

Also present was Proton adviser Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Proton Group managing director Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said the group was targeting to offer the vehicles to the public in 2013.

“While we are very excited about the EVs, there is still a lot of testing and evaluation to be carried out.

“We will provide the Government with 200 more EVs and REEVs for this within a year,” he said.

He said Proton expected to receive a lot of feedback during the one-year test and evaluation period.

The EVs are expected to cost between RM70,000 and RM100,000.

“We are looking at RM100,000 or lower for the Exora REEV and RM70,000 for the Saga EV.

“Yes, the price is 30% to 40% higher than conventional vehicles but users get to save on fuel and road tax,” Syed Zainal Abidin said.

He added that on a full tank of petrol, the Exora REEV could cover up to 700km while the Saga EV could travel up to 130km before it needed to be recharged.

Now 4 questions I would like to ask are:

1) What is the status of these hybrid cars which are currently being used by the government officials? The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry or Proton needs to state the road worthiness of the cars. Are all those 30 units doing perfectly well? This is important since RM270 million of government’s money were given to Proton to develop it.

2) Since RM270 million was a grant and not a soft loan, the cost of each car (at R & D stage) is roughly about RM9 million. Slightly more expensive than a Bentley Continental. Is this justified?

3) Proton has cash balance of RM1.2 billion as at March 2011. Why would it need a further GRANT from the government of RM270 million? Surely RM270 million can be used elsewhere other than the cash rich Proton.

4) How much of this RM270 million being paid to third party such as Fraser – Nash and others?

Thank you.