Jumbuck packs swag
The Jumbuck ute has reached the end of the road as Proton tests new models, writes PAUL GOVER
THE best-selling Proton model in Australia is heading for an early grave. The Jumbuck ute is in runout mode in Malaysia and, with limited supplies at the factory, that means the car will die within six months.
But the Jumbuck is expected to live again when Proton switches the compact pickup to the back of one of its newer production cars.
‘‘The factory is running out their stocks of parts. Once that’s done, that’s the end of the current Jumbuck,’’ Proton Australia managing director John Startari says.
‘‘The Jumbuck has been our best seller since 2003 and has worked well for us, so we’ll take as many as we can get from the final production.’’
Startari denies the Jumbuck’s demise is related to a ANCAP crash test that is expected to give the Proton a two-star rating.
‘‘It’s a Malaysian decision,’’ he says. ‘‘It has nothing to do with the crash test. We haven’t even seen the result yet.’’
The Jumbuck is based on the Proton Persona sedan and the prod- uct planning team is considering several choices for its successor.
It has built prototypes based on almost every model in the line-up, from the baby Saga sedan to the Satria and new Exora people mover.
‘‘The important point will be that the new car will not only be the lowest-cost commercial but among the safest on the road,’’ Startari says.
He promises everything from multiple airbags and anti-skid brakes to Lotus-tuned suspension and a passenger safety cell with more protection than the original.
A go-ahead on the new model is expected sometime next year.
‘‘We are working with the factory on various concepts,’’ he says. ‘‘Once the feasibility study is done the decision will be made.
‘‘It’s probably going to be early next year, but nothing official has come from the factory and we cannot speculate.’’
The successor to today’s Jumbuck will be a crucial model for Proton as, apart from Australia, it has worked well in other Asian countries where pickups are popular.
Proton hopes it will be an export spearhead into countries where it is looking to expand, particularly in north Africa and the Middle East.
‘‘If you look at the markets where they compete, Thailand is one of the world’s biggest markets and will have a big say in any future Jumbuck,’’ he says.
‘‘Australia is also an important market and we’ve sold 5234 since the Jumbuck was introduced.’’