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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Malaysia's Proton subsidiary Lotus to cut jobs

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's loss-making national automaker Proton said Thursday its British-based high-performance subsidiary Lotus would cut jobs by year's end to reduce costs and introduce three new car models in the next five years.

Sagging local sales of Proton cars have seen the company's share of the local market dwindle from nearly one in every two cars on Malaysian roads to just over 30 percent.

"Proton, together with the management of Group Lotus, is determined to see that the strategic plans, company realignment and expansion of model range will positively redefine how the business is carried out,'' said Proton managing director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir.

Lotus chief executive officer Michael Kimberly said in a statement it plans to pursue cost-cutting measures "as a short-term measure to strengthen the company's efficiency and finances to ensure that Lotus contributes effectively to the Proton group.''

Proton's second quarter losses, ending in June, stood at 58.6 million ringgit (US$16 million; euro12.62 million) compared with a loss of 12.4 million ringgit in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue also dipped by 31 percent on year.

The statement, issued on both Proton's and Lotus' Web sites, said the Norfolk-based company would "right-size'' its workforce via a voluntary exercise by the end of 2006.

It did not elaborate.

"This will mean that a leaner, more cost effective and efficient Lotus will be far more globally competitive and realigned for business growth,'' Kimberley said in the press release.

In 2004, Lotus employed around 1,400 people, according to the Web site of GlobalExpense, a company tasked with managing Lotus' employee expenses.

Last week, France's Peugeot-Citroen SA said it would explore possible cooperation with Proton, giving it a better footing in the highly competitive Asian market.

Proton, which is under pressure to boost its sales and return to profit by revamping its model lineup, has also said it was talking with China's Chery Automobile Co. about building and selling each other's cars in China and Southeast Asia.

Proton also has a technology alliance with Japanese automaker Mitsubishi.

Kimberley said a new Lotus/Proton high-performance vehicle is targeted for launch in mid-2008 followed by a mid-range model in December 2008.

Its iconic Esprit model, featured in two James Bond movies, is undergoing a revamp and will be unveiled the following year.

No sales targets were provided.

Proton is under heavy pressure from foreign carmakers as well as local rivals.

Second national carmaker Perodua, part-owned by Japan's Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd., has so far outsold Proton in Malaysia for the first time ever this year. - AP

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What is the main factor for you to buy a Proton Car?
Low price and no other choice due to budget
Good resale value
Low maintenance cost
Ride & Handling is good
Reliable parts, chasis and engine
Good Styling exterior & Interior
Patriotism (I support Made in Malaysia Products)
Follow others (Follow Majorities should be the best choice)