Proton cars have long been know for low quality cars that fall apart after a while of ownership, but the recent wave of cars from the company gives a glimmer of hope that maybe there are some of the cars worth buying. I’m talking about the Proton Preve and Suprima. Ken and I had the opportunity to test drive the Preve yesterday morning. Keyword = “opportunity”.
Preve and Suprima S “Test Drive”
We went for a unscheduled visit to a Proton dealership on Jalan Ampang. Take not this is not just some Proton showroom, it’s a pretty big dealership located in a prime location. Actually when the Preve was launched we came to this dealership in the hopes to get a test drive but unfortunately we couldn’t because the test drive car was in the garage to be serviced. But this time around we made “some progress”. We wanted to test drive both cars but had to settle with only the Preve. We did however take a tour of the Suprima S at the showroom.
Unfortunately, the guys at the dealership do not accept walk in test drives and you have to book a test drive in advanced to actually get to drive it. Talk about exclusivity. However after making up some drama about how I don’t have time for another visit to the place, the salesman agreed to give us a test drive. So, I went on and filled in the test drive form and the guy went on to photocopy my IC and drivers licence for reference and stuff.
As a comparison, you can walk in anytime to a Honda dealership and test drive any car and you don’t even have to give a copy of your IC/drivers licence and fill in a freaking form. That alone costs a lot of points in customer service on the part of Proton. I mean, you want to sell your car, but you make it so hard for the customer to actually try it. But to be fair, it’s also hard to get a test drive at the VW and Mazda dealership located on the same road. Anyway, the story didn’t end there.
So, after filling the form and stuff we head off to the garage to get the car. So the salesman got in, stuck the key in the port and pressed the start button and to our dismay, the car didn’t start. It seemed that the battery had (almost) died, or did it? We can only speculate. The other thing that might have gone wrong was the ECU system since there was no reaction from the engine starter when the start button was pressed.
I’m not sure how old this car is and I’m not familiar with the current progress of the number plates in Selangor so I can’t tell how old this car is, but already problematic. So much for 5 years warranty. So, that was the so called “test drive”. Cut short even before it happened. Like WTFish, right? Like I said earlier, we had the “opportunity” to test drive the cars, but opportunity was all we got.
This has been the biggest disappointment about Proton – its customer service and ability to sell cars. I bet this type of customer service standard has lost thousands of potential customers for Proton. Logically, when selling a car, they should expect people wanting to have a go on the car before buying them. Especially given the not so impressive track record of Proton cars. They should have put an SOP in place to ensure each customer is well taken care of from the minute then step in until they leave and this includes making sure their test cars are fully functional because driving the car might be the only thing that can convince the customer to make the decision to buy the car.
As we see it, Proton has a long way to go in terms of sales ethics and dealership management in order to compete with Honda or other brands. In fact, I think Proton has to overhaul it’s marketing and sales team. I mean, just look at how they promoted the Suprima S. The advert is portraying it as a family car when it’s clearly targeted at the young and sporty-conscious. Even the advert song is enough to scare away young potential customers.
As for the sales team on the ground (in the dealership), they really have to learn how to convince people to buy their car and changing how they treat customers can go a long way in achieving this. Instead leaving all the promotion to the HQ, they should come up with more ways to market the car by tapping into personal experiences of the customer. Again, training is much needed here.
Having said all of the above, I would still say don’t judge a book by it’s sales person. The following are some comments about the two cars after a quick try try out in the showroom.
iMyn on the Preve Premium:
It’s the only Preve model worth buying. Looks really nice, good build quality. Just wish it had the interior styling of the Suprima S. RM73,003.50 OTR price, RM7,303.50 downpayment, RM924 per month on a 7 year loan and RM750 per month on a 9 year loan at 2.6% interest.
- Better looking, faster and a bit cheaper than the Suprima.
- Prefer the fabric seats to the leather seats on the Suprima.
- Big rear window compared to the Suprima.
- Paddle shift transmission.
- Cruise control
- Pretty good build quality for a Proton
- Prefer the styling in the Suprima.
- Questionable reliability judging from the broken down test car.
iMyn on the Suprima S Premium:
It looks promising. The interior is pretty nice and if you can stand the rear end design, you might want to consider buying it. But do test drive it first. RM 79,988 OTR price, RM7,988 down payment, RM 1013 per month on a 7 year loan and RM822 on a 9 year loan at 2.6% interest.
- Interior styling and many airbags.
- Quite a big boot considering it’s a hachback
- Sport Rims are nice.
- Android media centre.
- Pretty good build quality for a Proton.
- Can’t stand the rear end.
- Slower than the Preve.
- the rear window is too small and hard to see the back.