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Mitsubishi to refocus on SUVs, utilities

Triton coming: A production version of the GR-HEV concept is still nowhere to be seen, but Mitsubishi has committed to launching an all-new Triton in its next financial year.

New Mitsubishi plan targets SUVs and utes, EVs and hybrids, with sedans ‘farmed out’

Mitsubishi logo8 Nov 2013

By TERRY MARTIN

MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation will focus more heavily on crossovers, SUVs and utilities, pushing further into emerging markets and continuing to roll out electrified drivetrains across its range in a bid to increase global sales by 30 per cent over the next three years.

Announcing its mid-term ‘New Stage 2016’ business plan and deeper product and technology ties with the Nissan-Renault Alliance this week, the Japanese car giant is preparing to build its next-generation Lancer small car and Galant mid-sizer on Renault platforms while concentrating its in-house resources on core-strength “strategic products” such as its new-generation Pajero – to debut in concept form at this month’s Tokyo motor show – and the forthcoming redesigned Triton ute due for release next year.

As GoAuto has reported, the Tokyo show will also stage two new compact concepts from Mitsubishi, including a preview of the next-generation ASX crossover that, like the new Pajero, is expected to be launched in 2015.

MMC’s new business plan underscores the importance of these new models – all of which are expected to offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain option – with its global sales target for its 2016 financial year (ending March 31, 2017) now set at 1.43 million, up 30 per cent compared to the volume forecast for the current fiscal year.

“MMC believes that keys to achieve this are utilising its strong-selling pickup trucks, SUVs and crossover models as strategic products, while steadily meeting the globally growing need for eco-car technologies and safety technologies, and steadily taking in higher sales from the mid- to long-term growth in Asian markets,” the company said.

The proportion of sales from these strategic models is expected to rise from 57 per cent to 63 per cent over the next three years, while the company will look to its partnership with Nissan-Renault and potentially other global car-makers to renew several key passenger models.

Among them is a new mid-size sedan to be based on a Renault platform and built at the Renault-Samsung plant in Busan, South Korea – the source of Megane, Fluence and Latitude models sold in Australia.

This new sedan will be a successor to the Galant discontinued in the US last year – the same model that underpinned Mitsubishi’s Australian-built 380, which ended in 2008 – and will again be pitched primarily at the North American market.

The second sedan to be built in collaboration with Nissan-Renault will compete in the global C-segment and looks set to be the long-awaited replacement for the current Lancer. Mitsubishi says the manufacturing location for this product is still under discussion.

As well as sharing platforms and manufacturing facilities, the latest deal will also include technologies and “product assets” related to electric vehicles, meaning full-electric and plug-in hybrid powertrains are also anticipated on these new models – and others.

A third new model in the pipeline is a “new small-segment car including a specific electric version that can be sold on a global basis”.

This could be a replacement for the pioneering i-MiEV no longer actively sold in Australia, and will spring from the existing joint venture between MMC and Nissan-Renault that has led to a new shared Japanese-market ‘kei car’ platform and the resulting Mitsubishi eK Wagon and Nissan Dayz models.

MMC expects the production ratio of its EV and plug-in hybrid vehicles to increase to 20 per cent by 2020, although it has also vowed in the ‘New Stage 2016’ business plan to develop next-generation internal combustion engines and to further evolve core technologies such as its S-AWC four-wheel-drive system and e-Assist active safety systems.

It will also move to improve its position on “connect car” technology.

Among its regional endeavours, ASEAN countries, China and Russia remain at the centre of Mitsubishi’s focus for expansion. It already has a strong presence in Thailand and Indonesia, and will now focus on the Philippines as another key market.

At the same time, region-specific models will be reduced and its number of vehicle platforms will continue to contract, reducing from nine today to seven by the end of its 2016 financial year. The number of models will fall from 18 to 13 over the same period.

The total cost reduction expected to be realised under the latest business plan is ¥110 billion ($A1.185b), while higher quality targets have also been introduced, such as halving the the number of failures which occur within three months of delivery.

The company’s operating profit is expected to increase 35 per cent to ¥135 billion in the final year of the plan, up from a target of ¥100 billion in the current financial year.

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