Al-Haj Proton launches X70 SUV in Pakistan

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Al-Haj Proton has launched its 1.5 litre turbocharged X70 crossover SUV in Pakistan. Its top variant is priced at Rs5.4 million.

The company will initially be selling two imported variants – Executive AWD and Premium FWD at Rs4.9 million and Rs5.4 million, respectively. It will later sell the locally assembled at reduced rates of Rs4.7 million and Rs5 million, respectively.

The crossover SUV falls in the same category as Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and MG-HS.

Briefing on its features, automotive consultant Shakaib Khan said that Proton X70 has a lane departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, voice command control for aircon panoramic roof and windows and up to 5 years or 150,000kms warranty.

Other crossover SUVs launched so far in Pakistan lack these features, according to Khan.

“All these features are the ones not found in Sportage or Tucson,” he said. “Topping all this off with competitive pricing, this will definitely give the crossover offerings a run for their money.”

The SUV will initially be imported. The company is expected to switch to local assembly by June 2021.

The X70 is the same car former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad gifted to Prime Minister Imran Khan in December 2019.

Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage have 2,000cc engines while the X70 has a 1,500cc engine. But an official of the company claims its “1,500cc turbo engine is much more powerful than the Tucson or Sportage engines”.

Proton has received a green-field status under Pakistan’s Auto Development Policy 2016-21. New companies such as Proton, Kia, Hyundai, and Changan etc will be paying less duties under the policy, compared to companies already operating in Pakistan such as Toyota, Honda and Suzuki. The Al-Haj group has also been selling FAW cars in the country.

The ADP 2016-21 policy ends in June 2021 and the models introduced by new companies will be considered for duty relaxations.

Why does Pakistan’s auto industry likes SUVs?

The addition of the Proton X70 SUV has made it the fifth SUV to be launched in the last two years, according to JS Global Capital research analyst Ahmed Lakhani.

Regal Automobiles launched the Prince Glory SUV earlier this year while Changan is also gearing up to launch its SUV after launching its Alsvin sedan before the ADP 2016-21 policy ends.

Lakhani says the industry finds high-end cars such as Sportage, Tucson, DFSK Glory, MG-HS or X70 a lucrative segment. Sportage and Tucson prices are in the vicinity of Rs5 million.

“I think it shows that the rich are becoming richer,” Lakhani said. “They have the buying power and they are buying; there’s not a significant demand for low-price vehicles that may help companies earn volumes.”

Even the low-end passenger cars’ data doesn’t represent the actual population, according to the analyst. The lowest price of a reliable brand is well above the Rs1 million mark.

“The low-priced 70cc bikes actually represent our population,” he said. “The sales of these Chinese-made bikes are increasing every year.”