Malaysian automaker Proton having teamed up with Al-Haj Automotive is all set to introduce its first products in Pakistan. The company will launch the X70 SUV in December followed by the introduction of Saga sedan most likely in January 2021.
Camouflaged test mules of both these vehicles have been seen conducting vigorous testing on the roads of various cities of Pakistan for quite some time now. Earlier the Proton vehicles were expected to be introduced towards mid 2020 but the timeline met a speed bump in shape of COVID-19 lockdowns.
The X70 will add another flavor to the increasingly competitive SUV segment & will go against the likes of Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, DFSK Glory 580 as well as the recently unveiled MG SUVs. Powered by a 1.5L turbocharged engine under its hood (co-developed by Volvo & Geely), which is much more powerful (176hp/ 255Nm) than the naturally aspirated 2.0L units (155hp/ 196Nm) found in Sportage & Tucson, the Proton X70 will compete the aforementioned two with “more features in a lesser price” as disclosed by our sources. Interestingly, the X70’s 1.5L engine for Pakistan happens to be the same that propels the award winning Volvo XC40 as well as the Geely SX11 Binyue crossover.
On the other hand, Saga sedan as reported by us earlier will exclusively get a slightly downsized engine for Pakistani market specifically to secure tax benefits. Originally the Proton Saga (in Malaysia) comes equipped with a 1332cc DOHC VVT engine that produces 94hp of power and 120Nm of torque, however the ones especially made for Pakistan will get a 1299cc engine under the hood. This is because tax structure for 1300cc & above cars is different and staying below 1300 would help the company in pricing the sedan lower and will also help to gain consumer interest due to a lower tax bracket. Pricing of Saga sedan is again expected to be lower than the competitors as revealed by our sources.
Proton was among the new entrants that were awarded Greenfield investment status under Auto Policy 2016-21 which is approaching its end in June 2021, hence newcomers are trying to introduce as many products possible to gain tax incentives offered in the policy. The Proton X70 SUV and Saga sedan will initially be offered as CBU whereas the local production will kick in during the first quarter of year 2021.
Both X70 and Saga are the winners of 2019 Malaysian Car of the Year award in their respective categories, and have been doing tremendously well in terms of sales back in their home market helping Proton regain its position as the 2nd bestselling car brand in Malaysia. Whether these two will fare the same sort of success in Pakistan, we will have to wait to find out.