Malaysia’s Proton Holdings Bhd says it is getting ready to take another look at a strategic tie up with a foreign partner, The Malaysia Star reports.

Managing Director Zainal Tahir tells reporters in Bangkok following the launch of the Proton Persona that the auto maker’s prerequisites for a partner remain the same.

Proton wants a partner that will give it access to new technology and product platforms so it can better compete in existing markets.

Zainal says the global economic crisis gives Proton a leg up in any potential discussions.

“It puts us in a position to give (a partner) much better value,” he is quoted as saying. “We have the capacity and platforms and we have a value to contribute. They can tap our lower cost of production.”

Proton continues to rationalize its operations and is eagerly awaiting the impact of its upcoming multipurpose vehicle, which is expected to account for sales of 50,000 to 60,000 units annually.

“We are discussing with our shareholders the options available for Proton,” Zainal says. “Going forward, there will be room for strategic collaboration.”

Proton also is negotiating with other auto makers on a product partnership for its Waja and Perdana replacement models, with the Waja replacement due out by early 2010.

The auto maker is said to be close to a decision on a replacement for its Campro powertrain, scheduled to be introduced sometime in 2014. Zainal says talks are under way for Proton to secure a diesel engine from either PSA Peugeot Citroen or Fiat SpA.

Meanwhile, Proton is continuing to consolidate its dealer network, which now stands at just under 300. Zainal says the right size would be about 200 dealerships.

Proton has escaped the worst of the global financial crisis because its markets include the Association of Southeast Asian Nation members, the Middle East, China and Iran.

“The segment we are in China would not be affected much,” by the economic crisis, Zainal says. “As long as you are not in the premium brand, you will be all right.”

Proton is, however, cautious about its joint venture in China with Jinhua Youngman Automobile Mfg. Co. Ltd.

“We are looking at how they perform and we will not hesitate to make a decision if we think there is an obstacle,” Zainal is quoted as saying.

Proton also is evaluating its position in Britain, which Zainal says no longer is a flagship market for the company, as well as Australia.

“We have to look at branding and our strategy in terms of dealers and distributors which have to be further enhanced,” he says.