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Tokyo show: Mitsubishi plans SUV assault

Big boy: The chunky XR-PHEV concept that previews the next-gen ASX turned heads on the stand at the Tokyo show this week.

Mitsubishi confident on risky SUV plan as it showcases its future line-up in Tokyo

Mitsubishi logo21 Nov 2013

By TIM NICHOLSON

THE president of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is confident in its plan to push core SUV models and focus less on traditional sedans as he officially unveiled the company’s three SUV concepts at the Tokyo motor show this week.

Three SUV or crossover concepts were officially unveiled at the Tokyo motor show this week, with the GC-PHEV previewing the next-generation Pajero while the XR-PHEV is an early look at the next ASX.

The third model – called Concept AR – is not a replacement model and is currently being assessed by the brand.

At the unveiling of the concepts in Tokyo, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation president Osamu Masuko said the new models formed a part of the company's recently announced 'New Stage 2016' business plan.

This plan involves a change in direction for the brand, with focus shifting heavily towards its core SUV line-up as well as electric vehicle and hybrid drivetrain development as well as a collaboration with the Renault-Nissan Alliance on a future C- and D-segment models.

Masuko-San said there was some risk involved in relying on SUV sales, but Mitsubishi was better placed by concentrating on segments it already performs well in.

“If you think about the scale of the company, if we were to make from 'kei' car to all segments of the line-up on our own and launch into the market, then it would be doing too much, or it would be very difficult for a company of our size to do that,” he said.

“If we are going to compete in the world and when we think about the technology and the products that we can compete with in the world market, then a lot of customers have great expectations towards Mitsubishi related to SUV, four-wheel drive and environmentally friendly technology.” Masuko-San highlighted the plug-in-hybrid technology and production potential of the concepts and suggested there was more risk in attempting to cover all segments.

“Maybe you might say it is a risk that we don't have vehicles in all the segments, but it would be better for us to concentrate on technology and products that we are very good at and where we can compete. It is for the benefit of the company to focus on what we are good at and technology and products.

“So I think it's more risky if you try to challenge on everything instead of concentrating on the good technology and also the product that we have,” he said.

The concept that could be the first to go into production is the hulking GC-PHEV full-size SUV that will see life as the next Pajero and is powered by one of a number of new hybrid powertrains currently being developed by the Japanese car-maker.

This particular version – as its name suggests – is a plug-in hybrid matched with a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 MIVEC engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a full-time all-wheel drive system.

Earlier this year, Mitsubishi entered a slightly modified version of its Outlander PHEV in the ASEAN rally through Thailand and Laos to test the off-road abilities and durability of a the plug-in system.

Masuko-San said the vehicle handled the often difficult conditions well, and said he believed the next-generation Pajero – which will feature a more advanced version of the PHEV system – will be just as capable off-road as before.

Also given the nod for production is the XR-PHEV compact SUV which is confirmed as the second-generation ASX.

This is powered by a downsized 1.1-litre turbocharged MIVEC engine combined with a plug-in hybrid system and high-capacity battery.

Both vehicles feature similar design cues that points to Mitsubishi's future design direction, including front-end styling incorporating the grille that resembles a battle helmet.

Masuko-San confirmed that the XR-PHEV will go into production as the ASX within the next three years, falling within the 'New Stage 2016' plan, however he was unable to confirm when a production version of the Pajero would see the light of day.

The Concept AR is an crossover-style MPV not linked to an existing model and is powered by a mild hybrid system (non plug-in) with a 1.1-litre turbocharged MIVEC engine.

Masuko-San said this was at the very early stages of development, with Mitsubishi still assessing its viability.

“Where is the market for this type of new concept vehicle? Is it a mature market like Japan, the United States or Europe or maybe better for the emerging markets to receive this type of vehicle. We have to start the market survey. Which market will be acceptable. We are going to study that.” If the Concept AR is given the green light it would mark the return of an MPV to Mitsubishi's local line-up following the demise of the Grandis in 2010.

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