Proton CEO Tengku Mahaleel has foreshadowed a flood of high technology product from the Malaysian maker over the next four years as the company moves into its next phase as a centre for design engineering and manufacturing, not just an assembler of cars.

Speaking to Australian journalists in Sydney, Tengku said the company was currently designing a number of new cars and engines which will "drive the Proton brand as a producer of cutting edge product with youthful design and not just metal designed to go from A to B."

"We are planning a total redefinition of the brand using the enormous engineering resources we have at our disposal, including Lotus which will ultimately inspire all of our new models," said Tengku.

"The Waja (Impian) is the first step in our plan but the cars which follow will be much more adventurous and radical with our entire model range set to be replaced by 2004," he added.

Proton has an 80 percent holding in Lotus, the British sports car and engineering operation that has recently established a design centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The flood of new Proton product will be inspired by Lotus with work proceeding on projects including an advanced engine which will feature the ability to de-activate cylinders to aid fuel economy without compromising performance when it is needed.

Proton is also developing a new all-aluminium platform that will be the basis for more than one car type, utilising Lotus' extensive technology resources.

Tengku said that Proton was in a holding pattern until its new generation products come on line over the next three years.

"Once we have that product on the market we will forge a very different image for Proton, as the manufacturer of prestige, world class high technology automobiles designed to compete with Europe's best.

"We aim to be a developer of new automotive technologies and not just a volume maker of low technology economy cars," he said.

"All of our future models following the Waja will have Proton designed and engineered powerplants, drivelines and platforms."

Mahaleel has been at the helm of Proton since 1996 and was voted 'Malaysian CEO of the Year' in 1999.

Proton was established in 1983 and started manufacturing cars in 1985 based on Mitsubishi technology.

The Waja/Impian is the first car designed and built by Proton itself though it currently uses bought-in engines.

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