Proton hits EV gold with e.MAS

Just as the nation was in the throes of its widely expected diesel subsidy cut, national carmaker Proton added fuel to the automotive fire by announcing its foray into the electric vehicle (EV) territory.

The Wednesday evening weather may have been gloomy outdoors but there was much buzz and electricity in the Proton headquarters showroom in Subang Jaya for its chief executive officer Li Chunrong to unveil the company’s next step-up in its evolution as an automotive manufacturer.

First on the evening’s agenda was the name to be revealed. Back in May, a competition was launched to pick a name for Proton’s first EV, harking back to all the early frisson when the first Proton Saga was announced back in 1985.

Just to jog your memory, army sergeant Ismail Jaafar from Penang coined the word ‘Saga’ during a Scrabble game and offered it as his entry. Proton liked it, as it came with the appropriate acronym ‘Safety, Achievement, Greatness and Ability’.

Ismail – who from then earned the nickname ‘Sergeant Saga’ – was rewarded with a bright red Saga for his efforts, appropriate since the beads from the saga tree common to these parts, are shiny red.

This time round, Pro-Net (Proton New Energy Technology) – the Proton subsidiary that handles its EV offerings – embarked on a similar search for the Malaysian name of its maiden model.

Just for the fun of it, guests were teased to offer their choice, printing them on shiny cards with the proffered names pinned to a display board.

Who was it who said great minds think alike – and leave ‘em fools alone; as many picked on the eventual winner – EMAS; for branding purposes, spelt e.MAS!

But the winner will come from the roll call of names who participated in this similar competition. Results will be announced through its social media pages in due course.

It remains to be seen if Proton will be generous enough to reward the eventual winner its maiden EV, together with the promised cash prize(s). Go on Proton – bagi la sebijik! Just to lend a little more hype and substance to the popular pick – there is this little matter of correct pronunciation.

The ‘e’ in emas (gold) should sound like the letter ‘E’, associated with anything electric, electronic, or based on technology. MAS melds in nicely, as it is the common country code for Malaysia on the international stage, from politics to sports. Merge the two, and voila! – one gets ‘emas’ to mean gold. Clever or what!

But I tell you a lie – Proton says the ‘e.MAS’ here signifies its effort to electrify Malaysia; nothing to do with any precious metal – so there!

So, with all the fanfare done and dusted, when can we actually see the car on our shores?

Well, you don’t have to be some automobile sleuth embarking on espionage to put two and two together from readily available teasers.

When the quest for the EV name was launched, Pro-Net helpfully featured the outline of none other than Geely’s Galaxy X5, which was recently launched back in May, in China.

Like all car companies, this will form the base from which similar but different models will be introduced round the globe – with Malaysia getting the Right-Hand Drive version. You have enough information to get an idea of the size and battery output of the Galaxy X5 but speculation is intense on its pricing for the Malaysian market.

Dare one speculate that it will be priced just a tad under RM100,000 – who knows? Come year end, we will!

Post script: There is a Malay saying – Rumah dah siap, pahat berbunyi. I am trawling the Net to find the most apt English equivalent to describe how construction of a house is supposedly complete, but the moment it is lived in, the need arises to use a plane to smoothen out rough edges arising from shoddy workmanship.

At the risk of being dubbed an ingrate, I have decided to mention the little boo-boo that marred what would have been a momentous introduction of Proton into its electrified future.

I will not dwell on the gory behind-the-scenes detail of who did what, but suffice it to say the impressive presentation contained a geographical glitch that resulted in Sabah and Sarawak labels being transposed.

The press of today; who include anyone with a social media account, immediately seized on this oversight.

Many uncharitably harangued Proton for entrusting such sensitive cartographical duties to parties not endowed with geographical aptitude. Worse, some strayed into political waters, questioning territorial integrity.

To its credit, the Proton PR machine (who must have been kept awake all night) issued a correction, and emailed its apology in response, the very next morning.

I tend to let bygones be bygones and believe that no good will come out of this episode if we insist on extracting every bit of mileage, and exact revenge until every litre of blood is drained.

A chastened Proton will be more geographically circumspect in future – no doubt!

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