Jum­buck packs swag

The Jum­buck ute has reached the end of the road as Pro­ton tests new mod­els, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.’’

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