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  Proton Moves into a New Niche  
- Monday, July 23, 2001  By Chips  Bookmark and Share
 
 
 
     

Niche model for younger buyers......

[+ click to enlarge]
The Mitsubishi Town Box
The Mitsubishi Town Box
Proton's first phase mainly involves cosmetic changes
Proton's first phase mainly involves cosmetic changes
Rear light units in bumper - meets JPJ regs?
Rear light units in bumper - meets JPJ regs?

Proton’s latest addition, the Juara, is clearly a niche model aimed at a small segment of the market where customers are looking for more functional and spacious vehicles. Adapted from the Mitsubishi Town Box, it has the type of styling which appeals to younger buyers with a very boxy bodystyle that offers maximum interior space.

The Juara development program was a relatively brisk one, having begun in late 1999 and officially announced in early 2000. The first prototype was completed in November last year with production beginning during the second quarter of this year at the AMM plant in Pekan, Pahang.

According to Proton CEO Tengku Tan Sri (Dr) Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, the intention in the Juara program is to re-engineer the original product, a capability which Proton has demonstrated it has, especially with the presence of Lotus in the group. However, for the time being, Proton has concentrated on mainly cosmetic changes and the re-engineering work will be done during the next two or three years. Besides being optimistic about exporting the model in future, Proton also looks forward to Mitsubishi Motors following through on its desire to buy the re-engineered vehicle and sell it as a Mitsubishi.

“With the Proton Juara, Proton is able to fill another niche in the domestic market where there is a need for a functional yet appealing and affordable multi-purpose vehicle that will cater to the active and diverse lifestyles of Malaysians,” said Tengku Mahaleel.

“We are confident that Malaysians will take to the Proton Juara as the market is more mature now and ready for less conventional looks, yet still wants something with more space that handles like a car,” he added. “It’s the sort of vehicle that a family can use daily.”

The cosmetic work done on the Town Box to make it into a Juara has given it an even more unusual appearance than the Mitsubishi version. Some people commented that it looks weird but there are varying opinions. Most important has been the incorporation of the Proton ‘corporate nose’ with the logo. An interesting feature seen on one of the vehicles was a signal light insert in the door mirrors but it does not seem to appear in the catalogues.

The rear end has a clean vertical door with the window occupying about half the height and below the door is a thick bumper. Very unusual is the installation of the four light units inside the bumper. They are rather low and raise the question of whether they would comply with the Malaysia Vehicle Construction regulations which may have a minimum height from the ground. But then again, this is a Proton so...

The dimensions of the Juara are certainly compact, measuring 3660 mm long and 1535 mm wide, making it slightly larger than the Perodua Kenari, an obvious rival. It’s also taller at 1810 mm and has a 2390 mm wheelbase (30 mm longer than the Kenari). With short overhangs, the Juara can get turned around very easily within a 9.6 metre width.

To Proton, safety is a core value and it has devoted no less attention to ensuring that the Juara is a safe vehicle. In fact, given its compactness, it would require a lot more effort to engineer the body structure. However, in Mitsubishi form, it already meets Japanese safety regulations for this class of vehicles. The front doors have anti-intrusion bars and there are additional reinforcements which run across the front width as well as a sturdy floor structure (especially at the front end).




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