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Next Mitsubishi Challenger to take on Prado, Everest

Challenger accepted: The next-gen Challenger will offer more comfort and safety features than the existing model and should be in local showrooms by early 2016.

Mitsubishi’s next-gen Triton-based Challenger SUV to go upmarket

17 Apr 2015

MITSUBISHI’S next-generation Challenger SUV will be less agricultural than the current one to ensure it competes against the likes of the Toyota Prado and Ford’s locally developed Everest in global markets, including Australia.

The all-new Triton ute-based all-wheel drive wagon should appear in Australian showrooms either later this year or early 2016, and will offer the latest comfort and safety features and a more car-like ride to help it appeal to a wider audience.

The current model that launched here in late 2009 is a utilitarian offering, carrying identical front-end styling to its Triton donor car. It is a competitor in execution and price to off-roaders such as the Holden Colorado 7 and its Isuzu MU-X cousin.

Images published by GoAuto last month showed the Challenger replacement testing in Adelaide, and revealed a front end that follows Mitsubishi’s new corporate face, dubbed Dynamic Shield, rather than that of the new-gen Triton that launches here later this month.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Outlander media drive in New South Wales last week, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) executive director of marketing Tony Principe acknowledged that the current-gen Challenger has not hit the mark, but its replacement should.

“The Pajero was a little bit ageing, so we obviously tried to throw Challenger in there but it probably wasn’t quite the right kind of vehicle for the Australian market,” he said. “But obviously the next generation will be.”

Mr Principe said it “makes sense” for the next Challenger to go upmarket if the company wants it to be competitive.

“The current Challenger is a car they put into countries like Thailand and the Philippines, and they are selling a lot,” he said.

“But if they want to crack the European, American and Australian market, it has got to be a lot more sophisticated and technologically advanced, so they are putting a lot of effort into it.” Mr Principe said the person from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan that is in charge of development of both the Triton and the Challenger is currently in Australia for research and testing.

“He is really keen to raise the level of the vehicle. He is basically out here doing research, saying ‘alright, what do we need to throw in this thing to make it a serious contender?’.”

While precise timing for Challenger is unknown, Mr Principe said it will arrive in the Japanese 2015 fiscal year which ends in April next year, and added that it will be more popular, globally speaking, the third time around.

“We still haven’t tied down a production time from them,” he said. “It’s one of these things where I think they are probably going to get a lot of people wanting them – Americans, Europeans. If it delivers on all of those things, such as sophistication and all that sort of stuff, you will have all the other countries saying ‘hey we want some of that’.”

The new Challenger is part of Mitsubishi’s wider strategy to focus its efforts on core SUV and light-commercial models in the short to medium term.

Powertrain details for the next Challenger are yet to be revealed, but it is expected to use diesel engines from the new Triton range. It is unclear whether Mitsubishi’s plan to boost electric and plug-in hybrid drivetrains extends to the Challenger.

While the Toyota Prado has been on the market in its current generation since late 2009, it is due for replacement in the next two years.

Ford’s Australian designed and engineered Ranger-based Everest – due in Australia mid-year – is expected to offer high levels of safety and comfort gear to elevate it above the likes of the Colorado 7 and MU-X.

Mitsubishi sold 1739 Challengers in Australia last year, and while it beat the sales of Holden’s Colorado 7 and the Fiat Freemont/Dodge Journey twins, it made up just 1.6 per cent of the sub-$70,000 SUV segment, compared with the Toyota Prado’s 15 per cent and 16,112 sales.

This year the Challenger has bounced back, with 660 sales to the end of March representing an 18.1 per cent increase over the same period in 2013, and enough to outsell the Jeep Wrangler (543).

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