Proton is targeting annual sales of 500,000 vehicles globally by 2018, according to local market research company AmResearch following a meeting with the Malaysian carmaker.

The news followed a visit to Proton’s Tanjung Malim plant by an analyst at the Malaysian research firm which said that exports would increase to 150,000 units annually within five years, from just over 10,000-15,000 units at present. Domestic sales are projected to increase to around 350,000, from 141,000 last year.

Although shares of parent company DRB-Hicom are said to have moved higher on the news, it remains unclear how Proton would achieve these volumes and many long-established automotive analysts remain sceptical - short of a full-scale invasion of Volkswagen products into Malaysia.

Proton on its own has a shortage of new product development capacity and competition in its home market is rising fast. The company has also struggled to establish itself as a mainstream brand in most export markets.

Proton said it plans to step up its turnaround plan for its Lotus Cars subsidiary but these niche products are unlikely to add significantly to group volumes.

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