20 August 2004

Proton will start selling its new Gen-2 five-door hatchback in the UK this winter – but the Malaysian company last week shut the door on a future deal with Rover, saying it has ended all negotiations.A brief statement said that any collaboration, which could have spawned a Roverised Gen-2 to replace the 25 (right), was ‘not viable’ and had ended. The news leaves Rover’s new-car strategy with another problem.

As we reveal in this week's magazine, MG Rover had earmarked a rebadged version of the Proton as a stopgap replacement for the 25 supermini, plugging the void between the expiry of its current crop of cars and the arrival of the its all-important RD/X60, or new mid-range vehicle, in 2006. Now that Proton has ruled that out, Longbridge is faced with an even longer and more drawn-out wait, and will have to come up with other ways to make its ageing products profitable. The Gen-2 is Proton’s Focus rival and is designed to revive the brand which sold just 1861 cars last year in the UK. It goes on sale in September with prices from £8995 for a 109bhp 1.6 GL with twin front airbags, alarm/immobiliser, air-con, electric windows, parking sensors and CD player.

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