PROTON Holdings Bhd and Volkswagen AG (VW) have made a second attempt to forge a partnership, this time without involving equity stake.
Proton managing director Syed Zainal Abidin Mohd Tahir said the national carmaker could, among others, start assembling and rolling out the first VW model in 12 months, the earliest.
Syed Zainal made it clear that the companies would only work on specific projects that include Volkswagen supplying products and components to Proton.
"We received a response from Volkswagen (on a new cooperation) last week. We will sit down to discuss on the specific models for (potential) assembly in Malaysia," Syed Zainal told reporters in Shah Alam yesterday.
The potential new collaboration with Volkswagen comes right on the heels of a revival of Proton's tie-up with Mitsubishi Motors Corp, its technical partner for about 20 years before the Japanese carmaker sold its entire Proton shares more than a year ago.
Proton and Mitsubishi Motors are due to sign a memorandum of understanding on a new technical cooperation today.
Syed Zainal said besides for sale in the domestic market, Malaysian-produced VW vehicles may be exported to South-East Asian countries either as a rebadged Proton or a VW variant.
Syed Zainal said if everything went smoothly, the large Passat sedan could be among the first VW models to go into Proton's manufacturing plant in Tanjung Malim, Perak.
VW had last month ditched earlier plans to cooperate with Proton as the latter did not agree with the German carmaker's intention to exert control over it.
Both parties had agreed in October 2004 to explore a collaboration for "mutual benefits", but Proton reportedly said Volkswagen had then started talking about a takeover.
Shares in Proton plunged after news that Volkswagen had scrapped plans for the alliance, which was seen as crucial to Proton's future.
Commenting on the company's share price that now hovers around RM5, Syed Zainal said negative news suggesting that, among others, Proton had lost its direction had played a part in the slide.
"The shares are currently undervalued. It should be around RM7 or RM8 each. Proton has not lost its direction. We are now being more focused," he added.
Syed Zainal, appointed as managing director effective from January 1 this year, also said that he would soon make his first meeting with Proton adviser Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.