Proton has announced a "serious discussion for strategic collaboration" with Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) "to further strengthen the competitiveness of both Proton and MMC in the global marketplace".

Proton's first car line back in 1985 - the Saga - was a lightly restyled Mitsubishi Mirage/Colt with engines produced in Malaysia under licence from the Japanese automaker. Most of the automaker's subsequent models were based on Mitsubishi models.

Proton and MMC are now talking about joint production of engines in Malaysia, contract production of MMC-brand vehicles at Proton facilities, the sharing of major parts and components between MMC's planned global small' emerging markets model, which is to be launched next March starting in Thailand, and Proton's upcoming 'global small car' and provision to Proton of MMC's future technologies such as electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicle technology.

"The two companies had jointly proceeded with feasibility studies since late 2010 and have identified these areas of collaboration that could be expected to provide both parties with the right synergy in the pursuit of global competitiveness," they said in a statement.

"Cooperation between Proton and MMC, ever since Proton's inception as the country's first car manufacturer and driver of the national automotive industry development, has proven to be a long lasting business affiliation.

The two companies signed an agreement in December 2008 on the development and production of new vehicles at Proton - the Malaysian firm currently produces the Inspira under licence; the four door sedan is based on a Mitsubishi vehicle.

The companies said they were hoping to establish another relationship where MMC will be able to expand its presence in the ASEAN market while Proton will be able to also expand its model line and make effective use of its production facilities.

"A new strategic collaboration, supported by the growth of both companies since their first collaboration 26 years ago, is certainly a natural progression for both parties in taking their business relationship to a much more significant and impactful level in view of the ever competitive automotive landscape," they said.