The renewed Saga Proton 2022 was released yesterday with several new features, but what was conspicuously missing was any kind of driver assistance. Yes, the domestic automaker expanded availability stability control to the standard AT variant, but the entry-level sedan still lacked more advanced systems like autonomous emergency braking, something its rival the Perodua Bezza has had since 2020.
When asked about this during the event, Proton Deputy CEO Roslan Abdullah admitted that Perodua had an advantage in terms of security, something that Proton had and lost. AEB’s lack, he said, comes down to what “value-added” items the customer wants and is willing to pay for.
“If you want to add [AEB], you have to remove some other features to balance the price,” said Roslan. “Our competitor might have this, so those customers who want to have this can [go buy their car]. But if the customer wants something more, like comfort, [handling]other things, they can come to us.”
Indeed, Proton is happy to give up its reputation for security to offer other features it thinks buyers will want. These presumably include those of Saga. latest additionssuch as a body kit, keyless entry, push button start, auto-folding door mirrors and externally opening trunk lid, all limited to the new top-of-the-range Premium S variant.
The need to attract customers is understandable. All of these features are really popular with Malaysians, and adding them to a car they weren’t originally designed for (remember, the saga can trace its roots back to the 2008 model) cost much more money than if they were implemented early in the development process. And it’s true that the Saga is noticeably more comfortable than the Bezza, with better handling to boot.
But we also know that Malaysian buyers will pay more for safety, enough for a left-brained, rational automaker like Perodua to install AEB on all but the base variant of the mivi. And it’s not just the cheap-as-chips saga that is affected by Proton’s current strategy: the bigger, the more expensive. iris and person they’re also not available with AEB, despite receiving their own significant facelifts last year.
Even in the X50 other X70 For SUVs, which compete in segments that are less price sensitive, the system is only fitted to expensive top-end variants, which cost more than RM100,000. On the contrary, the active period it has AEB as standard, and that car starts at RM61,500.
The message that Proton sends is simple: vote with your wallet. Buy enough cars with AEB and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and the company will have no choice but to give in.
GALLERY: 2022 Proton Saga 1.3L Premium S