Proton signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with China’s Smart Automobile yesterday at the annual 2023 China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning. This latest MoA - the second between Proton and Smart following August 2022’s MoA to appoint Proton as Smart’s distributor in Malaysia and Thailand - is to explore local assembly (CKD) of Smart vehicles in Tanjung Malim.
“The new MoA between Proton and Smart Automobile brings our collaboration to a new level as now we are talking about assembling Smart models in Malaysia. As an automotive manufacturer, Proton always intended to raise our involvement with Smart beyond distribution for the ASEAN region as there are many efficiencies to take advantage of because both companies are members of the Geely Group,” said Dr Li Chunrong.
“Proton has committed to introducing more New Energy Vehicles (NEV) in the future. After the launch of the Proton X90, our first NEV, we are excited by the opportunity to learn more about EVs from our collaboration with Smart. Going forwards, all our production activities will be centred at the Automotive High Tech Valley (AHTV) in Tanjung Malim, which will also help in our goal to turn Malaysia into a regional EV hub,” he added.
Earlier in April, Proton’s parent company DRB-Hicom inked a Heads of Agreement (HoA) with Geely to develop the 1,000 hectares Automotive High-Tech Valley (AHTV) in Tanjung Malim.
DRB-Hicom says AHTV will attract RM 32 billion worth of investments but emphasized that the money will not be coming just from Proton and Geely, but will also include other yet-to-be-named brands. Perhaps Smart Automobiles, with Mercedes-Benz still retains a 50 percent stake in, could be one of the entities of interest.
The first Smart model was introduced in the '90s, initially as a partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Swiss watchmaker Swatch, before becoming a wholly-owned brand of Daimer AG (now known as Mercedes-Benz AG). The money-losing marque struggled to expand beyond Europe.
In 2019, Geely, which already owns nearly 10 percent of Mercedes-Benz, bought 50 percent of Smart. Production was shifted to China and the brand has since been transformed into an electric vehicle-only marque. All Smart models now ride on Geely's Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) platform, which also underpins Geely's Zeekr models.
Also read: Geely: From city cars to buses, SEA platform will be the gold standard for EVs
Malaysia the first market in Southeast Asia to launch the rebranded Smart. Proton’s subsidiary Pro-Net (Smart Malaysia) has since signed up 9 dealers, including EON – the best performing dealer in Malaysia for Mitsubishi and Audi – and renowned Mercedes-Benz dealer Hap Seng.
The first Smart product, the imported-from-China (CBU) Smart #1 will be launched within the final quarter of 2023. Three variants will be offered – Pro, Premium, and Brabus, priced from RM 200,000 to RM 250,000.