Love it or hate it, Proton has been providing daily-drivers for the humble denizens of Malaysia for the better part of 33 years. The brainchild of ex-premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Proton was conceptualised to boost Malaysia’s industrial capabilities, in addition to stimulating the local economy.
For those of you who don’t know, the Proton name is an acronym derived from Bahasa Malaysia: Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional, which roughly translates to national automotive enterprise/company. Its infancy was spurred by a joint venture with Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi, which birthed the venerable Saga. From then, the national carmaker has progressed through, offering many firsts in the local industry. Over the years, Proton has had many opportunities to acquire, research and develop world-class technology seen their cars today. Here is a look at the top ten technological milestones that Proton has given us through the years.
Perhaps the most obvious in this list, the Saga, which was rolled out in September, 1985, is Proton’s first car, automatically making it Malaysia’s first car model. The Saga, derived from Mitsubishi’s Lancer Fiore saloon, has all the basic functions of a late 20th century vehicle, which simply means that it does not have any of the luxuries we are accustomed to now: no ABS, no airbags, no automatic air-conditioning, no daytime running lights, and definitely no uppity in-car entertainment.
Still, the car oozed swag at the time of launch, and coupled with a dash of government-encouraged patriotism, meant that the Saga single-handedly helped Proton establish the groundwork needed to conquer the local market in its coming years. In fact, the Saga still holds the distinction of being the longest-running production model for Proton: 7 years @ >300,000 vehicles produced.