The question may be an easy one at face value, but this Tiger poses it anyway, and does what a Tiger does best – delving into the rest of it. While it is indeed time for a new engine, can Proton actually afford the RM600 million price tag?
Just the other day, Tiger was talking to a friend about how Proton’s CamPro engines were just not up to snuff anymore, when lo and behold! news arrived that our local car manufacturer will be putting in RM600 million into a research and development (R&D) effort to field six engines!
At that point, Tiger could not help but feel a sense of shock. Six engines? What would they do with so many new models all of a sudden? Of course, this warranted a deeper look into the matter.
The first thing that piqued Tiger’s interest here is the number of engines that were to be covered by the R&D team. Again, just to be clear, the report Tiger saw had stated six engines. However, following some further research and nosing around on the Internet, it was found that the six engines actually represent variants of the one engine, namely two three-valve variants, two four-valve variants, and two more variants utilising the four-valve variants, but tacking on a turbo.
All right, this makes more sense. Proton will be developing a new engine, from which it will derive six variants, which will replace the CamPro as the standard engine. However, this led Tiger back to that price tag of RM600 million, and Tiger cannot help but wonder if it included “hidden charges”?
As it turns out, the engine with the RM600 million research price tag is something that Proton acquired. To be more precise, Proton had acquired the patent from Petronas in 1997, having spent RM63 million to purchase the patent then. What Tiger would like to ask here is whether or not the RM600 million price tag included the RM63 million from 1997?
The same question is also raised for other parts of the project. Does the RM600 million cover the cost of a new turbo to be researched? What is stopping Proton from slapping on an existing turbo from its partners Ricardo and Lotus?
There is also the question of whether or not Proton can actually pay the RM600 million price tag, considering the manufacturer had logged a year-on-year revenue loss of RM603 million for the first half of their 2015 financial year compared to their 2014 financial year.
There remains the possibility that Proton would be receiving a research grant, which would help them to foot the bill. But it would then be the taxpayers instead who would have to pay for the research grant.
Furthermore, Tiger finds it iffy that Proton keeps wanting to get back into the UK market. According to checks, Proton had only sold a grand total of 208 vehicles in 2012 across all its models, for the whole year of 2012. To Tiger, this would probably be grounds to pull out of that market altogether and consolidate or expand elsewhere.
Proton is hoping that their new engine, which is said to be able to meet the Euro 6 standards of carbon emission, will help the manufacturer to break into the European market as a whole.
In Tiger’s opinion, this remains a pre-launch sales pitch meant to raise hype over the engine. As it stands, the Proton Preve already complies with the Euro 5 standard, while the Iriz complies with the Euro 4. Having an engine that fulfils the criteria for Euro 6 does not necessarily mean that the car as a whole will be able to sell well.
Again, Tiger points to the low sales in the UK as an example, with the numbers actually speaking for the case.
To clarify the matter, no, Tiger is not against the idea of a new engine for Proton, as goodness knows it is high time for the manufacturer to come up with a new engine to power its models. However, what Tiger remains concerned about is the price tag of the whole endeavour, and the question of just how much of it will be paid out of the taxpayer’s pocket.
Still, Proton seems dead-set on the idea, and Tiger hopes that the engines will actually aid in lower carbon emissions. One question that this Tiger would like to field to the research team, however, is whether or not there is a way to make the engine more quiet, considering the price tag being attached?