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First look: Mitsubishi sketches its next Colt

Close Thais: The Colt's successor will join a growing list of light cars that come to Australia from Thailand.

Mitsubishi’s Colt replacement confirmed for production in Thailand from March 2012

13 Dec 2010

THE REPLACEMENT for Mitsubishi’s quirky Colt city-car will enter production in March 2012 at a new factory in Thailand, where the all-new ‘Global Small’ model will be priced from about 400,000 baht ($A13,490).

It is expected to go on sale in Australia a few months later, in mid-2012.

With a world debut planned for the Geneva motor show this coming March, the all-new Colt successor has been previewed in two low-resolution sketches that accompanied a press release to announce Mitsubishi’s first new factory in 16 years.

The new plant, Mitsubishi’s third in Thailand, represents a total investment of 16 million baht ($A539m) and will have initial annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, which the company says could be expanded to 200,000.

Mitsubishi held an official “foundation stone laying ceremony” on December 9 for the small-car factory, which will employ about 3000 new workers.

The Colt replacement, which will be based on a “completely new” platform currently under development by MMC, will be powered by fuel-efficient 1.0 and 1.2-litre engines, with an all-electric variant joining the range about a year after launch.

21 center imageFrom top: Mitsubishi Global Small Car sketch, Mitsubishi's new small car factory in Thailand, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation president Osamu Masuko.Mitsubishi’s compact and affordable new entry-level model will conform to the Thai government’s Eco-car Project requirements, which aim to promote investment and reduce fossil fuel dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

Versions for PSA Peugeot Citroen in Europe are also expected, in a deal that would see the French group switching from Toyota for its next-generation micro-cars.

PSA already sells models based on Mitsubishi’s Outlander and i-MiEV and will soon offer a version of the ASX mini-SUV in Europe, while the current Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 are produced in the Czech Republic alongside the Toyota Aygo.

PSA announced in April that it was developing a new 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine family and would commence production – in France – of normally aspirated and turbocharged variants in 2012.

Earlier this year, PSA decided not to commit to a capital alliance with Mitsubishi, although the two companies said at the time that product-sharing partnerships would continue.

During a visit to Australia in June, MMC president Osamu Masuko told journalists, including GoAuto, that Mitsubishi’s forthcoming small car would be smaller and more affordable than the current Colt and was being developed for global markets.

“In response to consumer demand for smaller, more economical vehicles, we are developing a new model, called Global Small,” said Mr Masuko. “This new vehicle is scheduled to be launched globally – including in Australia.”

MMC said the Global Small car was a globally strategic vehicle in response to both the market needs of emerging countries and the trend towards smaller vehicles in established markets.

Priced from $16,490 for the 1.5-litre VR-X, Mitsubishi’s current Colt five-door attracts less than one per cent of Australia’s booming light-car market segment, with sales down almost 33 per cent this year.

As GoAuto reported exclusively a fortnight ago, it will be withdrawn from sale in Victoria next month because it does not have electronic stability control.

Unlike a handful of other entry-level light cars, the Colt was not eligible for exemption from because the next-generation car equipped with ESC was deemed too far away and the current model’s sales volumes were considered too small to justify an expensive re-engineering to make it comply in the meantime.

While the current Colt is produced in Japan, its successor will join a growing list of light cars to come to Australia from Thailand, where tax incentives and a population of 67 million are attracting a growing number of car-makers.

They include the recently facelifted Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 sedan/hatch, Nissan’s all-new Micra hatch (which will be followed by a sedan version in 12 months) and Honda’s City sedan and Jazz hatch, which will be upgraded in January.

A number of other sub-light A-segment models will also join the Colt in production in Thailand – South East Asia’s second-largest economy – under that nation’s ‘eco-car’ plan, including the all-new Honda Brio and Toyota Etios, both of which debuted in recent weeks and could eventually go on sale in Australia.

Ford, which already produces the Fiesta and Mazda2 in a joint-venture with Mazda in Thailand, announced in June that it will spend $US450 million ($A456m) to build a new plant to produce the next-generation Focus from 2012.

That model is expected to come to Australia initially from Europe in late 2011, before switching to the Rayong Province plant – Ford’s first wholly owned factory in Thailand.

Toyota recently began production of the Prius in Thailand, where it already produces the Camry and Yaris – a model that could eventually also come to Australia from Thailand.

Mitsubishi Motors Thailand (MMTh) was established in 1987 and has two other factories that produce the Lancer, Space Wagon, Pajero Sport and (in a dedicated plant) Triton.

The third facility is being built adjacent to the other two in the Laem Chabang Industrial Estate at Chonburi, about 100km south-east of Bangkok.

The Colt name is one of the longest running in the world, having first been used by MMC in 1962, on the Colt 600.

Australians saw a version of this car from 1964, and the name has been applied sporadically to a wide range of Mitsubishi small cars since – most notably on the Australian-built RB-RE Colt series from 1982 to 1990.

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