Chinese billionaire Li Shufu said his Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will consider producing Lotus sports cars in China after agreeing to purchase stakes in Malaysian carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd and its British unit.
"With Zhejiang Geely Holding Group on board, Proton can now eye the huge Southeast Asian passenger vehicle market with renewed confidence", he said at the signing ceremony of the deal, which was attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group chairman Li Shufu.
During the event, the Chinese automaker will unveil the Geely Boyue SUV for a first public viewing in Malaysia.
He said Proton would relocate its Shah Alam operations to Tanjung Malim, adding that DRB-Hicom would undertake the construction of a test track facility and a R&D test track for Proton at the new location.
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"ZGH, which also owns Sweden's Volvo Cars, The London Taxi Company and the Geely auto brand, is the right partner for Proton".
"The acquisition is by no means a physical integration of assets but rather a collaboration to move forward the Proton and Lotus brands", Li Shufu, Geely's chairman, told a press conference.
"But that is the people's money and it would have been irresponsible for us to continue with a business model that was never going to succeed", he said in his speech at the signing ceremony between DRB-Hicom and Geely Holding.
Lotus production will be increased and expanded and will target three Southeast Asian markets, with the aim of pushing Geely's overall sales in the region past three million by 2020. We hope that through our cooperation with DRB-Hicom, Proton will be transformed into the number one independent automobile brand in Malaysia and one of the top three in southeast Asia.
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"When they have turned profitable and have sustainable development plans and products, then they can plan to export", Li said, when asked if Proton would export to China.
"With this strategic partnership, Proton will have the ability and resources to turn itself around and become an example of Malaysian success", said Najib.
ZGH in 2010 acquired Sweden's Volvo Cars.
DRB-Hicom Group managing director, Dato' Sri Syed Faisal Albar, said the signing was a historic moment for Proton, as the national carmaker moves to make inroads into the large ASEAN automotive market.
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Under the partnership, Syed Faisal said Proton will become the manufacturing hub for Geely's right-hand drive models. The government also had to give a 1.5 billion ringgit loan ($350 million) to help sustain Proton, he said.