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Mitsubishi tunes Triton for more expensive tastes

Popular pick: The seven-year-old Mitsubishi Triton is still a strong seller for the Japanese car-maker in Australia.

Fifth-gen Mitsubishi Triton to look sharper, but cost more with safety upgrade

Mitsubishi logo14 Jul 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) says it is looking at tweaking its next-generation Triton ute to suit local tastes when it launches here next year.

Speaking at last week's Mirage sedan launch, MMAL director of marketing Tony Principe said there was opportunity for the car-maker’s Australian arm to request subtle changes to the fifth-generation trade ute’s styling to ensure it appealed to local tastes.

“(MMAL chief executive Mutsuhiro) Oshikiri has been over there with a couple of our product planning guys and had a bit of a look at a couple of things and there has been some tinkering, I guess you could call it. Tinkering is always available to change certain things, depending on what we need, within reason,” he said.

Leaked images of what is believed to be a pre-production Triton surfaced on the internet late last month, revealing a boxier body and a chrome-heavy front-end, marking a move away from the smoother lines of the current model.

The shift in styling to what appears to be a more car-like design would also likely involve a step-up in safety to improve the current model’s four-star crash rating, Mr Principe said.

Mr Principe said the current Triton had lost sales to competitors because of its lower four-star ANCAP rating, with a number of fleet operators, mining companies and other corporate buyers mandating the purchase of fleet vehicles with top five-star safety ratings.

Rivals including the Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50 and Volkswagen Amarok all offer variants that carry a five-star crash ratings.

With the Japanese car-maker expecting a similar five-star rating for the new model, Mr Principe said contractors and smaller businesses operating on mining sites that were unable to buy a Triton because of the five-star policy were likely to return to the brand once the new, safer version arrived.

He said some light commercial vehicle buyers in the mining sector leaned towards the Triton because of its smaller size relative to other utes.

“A lot of them have said they would prefer a Triton as it is a more compact vehicle relative to, say, a Ranger,” Mr Principe said.

“In relation to the work they are doing, that compact size is more appropriate in terms of getting around a lot of areas, so we would expect we would get a lot of that back.”

However, while the leap in safety will help Triton’s sales potential in Australia, Mr Principe said other improvements to the work ute, including cabin comfort and specification, would likely mean a price increase over the existing model, which currently ranges from $20,990 plus on-road costs for the 2WD petrol single cab to $45,740 for the 4x4 GLX-R diesel double cab.

“Obviously we can't have the same value proposition because it will be a five-star vehicle it is going to have more spec, more features.”

Powertrains are yet to be confirmed for the Australian market, and Mr Principe said the mooted diesel-electric hybrid that was expected to join the line-up after the initial launch of the diesel-powered versions, is still being studied by the Japanese car-maker.

Mitsubishi expects its next-generation Triton ute to continue the recent sales success of the current model, with the seven-year-old current model still enjoying strong showroom allure, with a combined 4x2 and 4x4 total of 4124 units last month – a new record for the nameplate.

The strong June result came on the back of Mitsubishi’s aggressive end of financial year retail campaign, but with 11,838 year-to-date sales, the Triton still trails the ever-popular Toyota HiLux (19,160) and Ford's Ranger (13,443) for overall sales.

Mr Principe said it would be a challenge to maintain the high sales of the current model when the new-gen version arrived, but that the company was hopeful of continued growth.

“We think we will still be a majority player,” he said. “We would be looking to keep as much of the current volume.

“We sold 25,000 (Tritons) last year, which is a pretty big number. Whether we could keep all of that I am not sure, but we would be aiming to. Once you get that level you don’t really want to let it go. You’d have to look at how do we do that.”

Timing of the Australian launch for the all-new Thai-built utility range had been slated for later this year, but MMAL is yet to set a firm date, only saying that it would be “somewhere in the first half of next year”.

Rival Nissan recently ripped the covers off its next-generation Navara workhorse that is expected to arrive in Australia late this year, revealing a softer styling direction than the existing model's rugged-look.

The current-gen Triton and Navara are built alongside each other at Mitsubishi's Laem Chabang, Thailand plant, but the new Navara will be manufactured at Nissan's new facility in the Samut Prakarn province.

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