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Jury still out on more Mirage variants

Sedan plan: GoAuto previously reported a Mirage sedan is on the cards but Mitsubishi sources in Thailand are now providing conflicting information.

Mirage factory says sedan is next step but Mitsubishi execs want to watch and wait

25 May 2012

PLANS to produce a booted version of Mitsubishi’s new Mirage light car appear to be up in the air after Mitsubishi’s corporate general manager for the Global Small project, Takashi Sato, told journalists in Bangkok that there are “no specific plans” to expand the range beyond the five-door hatch that will reach Australia in January.

This is contrary to comments made at the Tokyo motor show in December by Mitsubishi design general manager Hiroaki Ohtsuka, who told GoAuto a sedan is in the pipeline, and vice-president for manufacturing Suvitch Benchatikul, who told us a sedan is “the next step” during a factory tour this week.

It seems that Mitsubishi’s goal of achieving low weight, fuel consumption and cost through simplification and low-tech engineering solutions with the Mirage will have to prove itself before investment in new body styles – or even opening the product up to platform sharing – will be considered.

In addition to the sedan, a three-door version of the hatch and even a coupe could be built off the lightweight Mirage platform, but a Nissan Juke-style mini-SUV is unlikely due to the underpinnings not being able to accommodate all-wheel-drive, and a restriction to three-cylinder engines that are unlikely to cope with the extra weight.

“We have simplified the structure of the chassis as much as possible,” said Mr Sato. “Therefore this car cannot have four-wheel drive or four-cylinder version. We do not (intend to) make a lot of variants, Ralliart versions or four-wheel-drive.”

21 center imageMr Sato confirmed an electric version of the Mirage is under consideration and said Mitsubishi has ideas about where to go with the Mirage, but no specific plans at the moment.

Mitsubishi Australia vice-president of sales Anthony Casey echoed Mr Sato’s cautious approach.

“It all comes down to money,” he said. “You make the decision to expand your range, you either go sedan or three-door – they are the two obvious ways to change the body style.”

Mr Casey said no decisions have been made and described Mitsubishi’s approach as monitoring demand for the product and then responding to requests from the market for additional body styles.

He also suggested that if the factory ends up running at full capacity with the five-door hatch, there was less of a need to invest in alternatives.

Mitsubishi Australia vice-president for customer and brand management Paul Unerkov justified the cautious approach by pointing out that the Mirage represents an entry to a segment in which the company has not competed for some time.

“Anything is possible later and they are researching lots of possible different things, but nothing is definitive, nothing is locked in,” he said.

An all-new vehicle platform is rarely developed these days without some kind of sharing arrangement built into the business plan, but Mitsubishi is keeping its cards close to its chest, again waiting to see if the Global Small philosophy pays off.

Mitsubishi has previously produced joint products with companies such as Volvo, Daimler and Proton.

It recently started building the Nissan Navara one-tonner in Thailand alongside the Triton as a pre-cursor to a co-developed next-generation vehicle, much like the arrangement between Ford and Mazda with their Ranger and BT-50, or GM and Isuzu with the Colorado/D-Max.

The deal also involves Nissan supplying Mitsubishi with a van to replace the ancient Express, with Mitsubishi supplying an SUV for Nissan to sell on the Middle Eastern market.

One partner that has been mooted for a Mirage platform-sharing deal is Peugeot, but Mr Sato responded by saying there are no specific plans to share the Mirage platform.

However, he agreed that sharing makes good business sense and believes that if the Global Small concept works, companies may approach Mitsubishi with a view to collaboration.

“As you know, we have a lot of contact with different companies, so of course we are quite open to that activity,” he said.

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