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Chinese auto veteran heads Proton's manufacturing arm

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-29 17:21

KUALA LUMPUR - Chinese auto veteran Li Chunrong was announced Friday as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of Proton's manufacturing arm, in a major move by China's Zhejiang Geely to revitalize the Malaysian national carmaker.

Malaysian conglomerate DRB-HICOM and Zhejiang Geely announced during a press conference that Li will be the CEO of PONSB from October 1.

PONSB is a subsidiary of Proton Holdings, as the main production, operations, manufacturing and marketing company.

Li, with 30-year of experience in the automotive industry, had previously held high level positions in major international brands such as Honda, Kia and Dongfeng.

Li will be responsible for the whole operations of Proton, involving the production, manufacturing operations, marketing, quality, research and development, sales and marketing, said DRB-HICOM and Geely.

He will be instrumental in working on jointly developed vehicles for Proton, with the first being a mid-sized sport utility vehicle.

"I believe the Malaysian car brand will soon be the number one domestic brand and a leading ASEAN brand, as Proton now has access to the global synergies, expertise and financial support I needs from Geely," Li said.

Earlier in June, DRB-HICOM signed a definitive agreement to sell 49.9 percent stake in its Proton to Geely, hoping that Geely would revitalize the Malaysian carmaker, which has seen mounting losses and dropping market shares in recent years.

Geely's executive vice-president and chief financial officer Li Donghui told the press conference that both DRB-HICOM and Geely believe that Li Chunrong is the best candidate to completely revitalize Proton, and Geely will use its global resources and synergy to realize the true potential of Proton in partnership with DRB-HICOM.

Geely has also nominated Li Donghui and Feng Qingfeng as their nominees to the Proton's board.

Meanwhile, Winfried Vahland, who was formerly the chairman and chief executive officer of Czech automobile manufacturer Skoda Auto, is also on the board of PONSB.

DRB-HICOM's managing director Syed Faisal Albar, who remains as Proton's chairman, said that Proton targets to be profitable in five years.

"The first five years is the key for (Proton)'s turnaround. Certainly next year will not be profitable, but we may be able to reduce the losses in the following year, and breakeven in the third and the fourth year," he said.

In its 10-year business plan, both parties are also looking at electric vehicles, he said.

DRB-HICOM has also on Friday announced to Malaysia's stock exchange that Geely has nominated its wholly owned subsidiary, Geely International (Hong Kong) to receive and hold the shares in Proton and sports car brand Lotus Advance Technologies.

Thus, DRB-HICOM's equity interest in Proton is now reduced to 50.1 percent, and the remaining 49.9 percent equity interest in Proton is now held by Geely International (Hong Kong).

Meanwhile, Lotus Advance Technologies has ceased to be an effective wholly-owned subsidiary company of DRB-HICOM.

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