Proton Holdings has entered into a partnership with Pakistan's Alhaj Automotive to assemble its vehicles in the South-Asian country, according to local reports in Malaysia.

Under the agreement, Alhaj Automotive will build an assembly plant in the port city of Karachi while Proton will provide the technical support and the CKD kits.

According to a statement by Malaysia's Hong Leong Investment Bank, Al-Haj has already acquired land for the assembly plant in the Port Qasim area of Karachi.

The partnership is a much needed opportunity for Proton to expand its business after its vehicle sales fell to a multi-decade low of around 65,000 units in 2018.

At its peak in the mid-1990s, Proton controlled close to 60% of the Malaysian vehicle market and enjoyed global sales of around 215,000 units.

Proton resumed exports at the end of last year, mainly to markets in the Middle East, but volume remains limited. It had previously ceased exports as it struggled to meet emissions regulations in many overseas markets and also because of weak demand.

Proton hopes that access to more advanced technologies of its partner Geely, which owns a 49.9% stake in the company, will help open new doors for its exports.

At the end of 2018 the company launched a new locally-made SUV in Malaysia, the X70, based on the 1.8L Geely Boyue SUV.

The domestic vehicle market in Pakistan, which has a population of 213m people, was 226,000 units in the 2017-18 financial year (ending in June), while volume in the eight month period between July 2018 and February 2019 fell 2.7% to 145,000 units.

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