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Mitsubishi secures Galant naming rights

Namesake: October's next-generation Magna is odds-on to take its name from the 2004 US Galant.

Mitsubishi registers Galant name for Magna replacement

2 Jun 2005

WHAT’S in a name? Well, quite a lot if you’re Mitsubishi.

With the Magna nameplate to be binned after 20 years when the $600 million, new-generation, 3.8-litre version, codenamed PS41, arrives in October, GoAuto can reveal Mitsubishi Motors Australia has registered the Galant GTVi and VRX names for a new "mid-size sedan".

Galant is used in other markets, including the United States, and Mitsubishi has confirmed the nameplate is on the short list for Australia.

But despite an international vehicle trademarks registry now showing the Galant name and related model derivatives being registered for Australia, Mitsubishi continues to avoid an official confirmation.

"It will either be June or very early July when we announce the name," said company spokesman Kevin Taylor. "It’s the latest we can organise badging for the car."Mr Taylor said he was unaware of the trademark registrations of the Galant name, made last December, and warned that something in favour now "might not be next week".

"I’m still not going to say anything until I see it (the badges) in black and white," he said.

The naming issue has been a hot one internally for the company as some executives feel the Magna name has plenty of miles left in it.

Last year, Mitsubishi boss Tom Phillips even flagged a national competition to name the new car, however, this was never formally launched.

"When that became public there were a lot of people who sent in suggestions, plus a lot of people internally put up names as well," Mr Taylor said. "They ended up with about 600 and short-listed four to research."GoAuto understands this has been further cut to just two remaining options.

Various industry analysts believe the time is right for a name change. The Magna name has been around since 1985 when the first TM model was launched, five years after Mitsubishi acquired the Chrysler brand in Australia.

One independent analyst with Melbourne-based fleet risk-management company SurePlan, Tony Robinson, said there was already "plenty of goodwill" attached to the Galant name, which Mitsubishi had used successfully as far back asthe 1970s.

"It’s a positive name and would be a positive move," he said. "If they get their marketing right, it could work well for them."Mr Robinson said in recent years there were negative perceptions attached to the Magna name.

Apart from the Galant, a casual glance at recent local trademark registrations reveals some interesting names cropping up.

Toyota Australia registered the Lexus RX350 name late last year, as well as the Lexus GS450H – "H" for hybrid. The system combines a 3.5-litre V6 engine with a high-output, permanent magnet electric motor, which both drive the rear wheels.

Toyota Australia also filed the "Aurion" name. GoAuto understands the Lexus GS450H is still under evaluation.

Local car-maker Ford Australia took the opportunity to register the Focus CC name, which is likely to be the two-door coupe-convertible version based on the Focus Vignale concept car (pictured below).

21 center imageAlthough the Focus CC is still to be confirmed, Ford Australia president Tom Gorman has expressed keen interest in bringing it here as a halo car for the range. The all-new sedan and five-door Focus hatch go on sale next month.

Early this year, Ford also registered the G6, G8, GV6 and GV8 names for the Fairlane, and Mazda registered the CX-7 and CX-9, which could refer to the forthcoming MX-Crossport crossover 4WD.

At no point, though, are these names final. Car companies often register several names to secure the rights before making a final decision.

Magna stock wanes to less than 800

MITSUBISHI Australia has managed to whittle away a massive Magna stockpile to make way for its new-generation car, which arrives in October.

Last September it had 5500 Magnas on grass waiting for buyers as the company battled a negative perception that its future as a car-maker here was doomed.

That number is down to less than 800 today.

Aggressive selling, a five-year/130,000km ‘bumper-to-bumper’ warranty announced last December and a re-invigorated marketing strategy have lifted sales of not just the Magna but also other Mitsubishi vehicles.

"The inventory is now under control," said Mitsubishi Australia’s national sales general manager, David Conway.

"We don’t want to launch the new car with a paddock full of old cars."Mr Conway acknowledged the company’s sales performance last month of 4172 vehicles was well below March’s strong performance of 6730 sales, which he attributed to dealer incentives and a pull-through of orders.

However, he said Mitsubishi had met its April target of around 4000 vehicles.

Mitsubishi’s market share jumped from 6.6 per cent in February to 7.8 per cent in March, and the company briefly regained fourth spot on the sales ladder, only to be knocked down to fifth last month by Mazda.

The Adelaide-based car-maker currently enjoys a 6.5 per cent market share in year-to-date terms, which Mr Conway partly attributes to the company’s new warranty.

"We are starting to achieve our targets," he said.

Among the stand-out performers are the Outlander 4WD, which had a strong April result with sales up 95 per cent in year-to-date terms, selling 299 for the month – largely due to strong buyer acceptance of the more powerful 2.4-litre MIVEC engine – while the Lancer managed 983 sales.

Mr Conway said he was confident of a strong May and June result because they were "traditionally busy with end-of-financial-year sales".

Mitsubishi will also continue with its "soft-sell" marketing campaign, with less focus on president and chief executive Tom Phillips in its television advertising.

It will soon commence a campaign for a $28,990 Magna Solara and has just announced a platinum-edition Pajero boasting an extra $5000 worth of equipment.

Base GLX Pajero pricing has also been repositioned to $39,990 to better compete against Toyota’s Prado.

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