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Triton hybrid decision up in the air: Mitsubishi boss

Changing shape: The GR-HEV concept previews the next Triton, as well as its forthcoming hybrid drivetrain.

Mitsubishi president says he is struggling to decide type of hybrid for new Triton

Mitsubishi logo10 Apr 2014

MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation president Osamu Masuko says he is struggling to decide if the new-generation Triton ute will get a conventional hybrid powertrain or a more sophisticated plug-in hybrid (PHEV) unit as an alternative to diesel in the new model due late this year.

This is contrary to reports from Mitsubishi’s Australian subsidiary, which appears convinced that a conventional – and cheaper than PHEV – hybrid powertrain has been locked in, arriving about 18 months after the initial launch of the diesel variant in December this year.

However, Mr Masuko – speaking to Australian journalists in Adelaide where he was attending a dealer meeting – indicated that he was leaning towards hybrid due to the cost sensitivity of light commercial vehicles.

Asked if Triton would get a hybrid as well as diesel, Mr Masuko said: “This is a very difficult answer for you. We are discussing whether we will do this with hybrid rather than PHEV.

“Triton is obviously a commercial vehicle, and it is used for business, so obviously the cost is very important, and hybrid can be made cheaper. That’s probably why we might make that decision.”

Mr Masuko said because the electrified vehicle would arrive well into the life of the new model, timed to coincide with what he called a “big minor change”, the decision was yet to be made.

“No, it hasn’t been made,” he confirmed. “I am still struggling to make it.

“The first one you will see (diesel Triton) won’t be hybrid. So maybe following ‘big minor change’, then we can go with hybrid.”

21 center imageFrom top: Mitsubishi GC-PHEV and XR-PHEV concepts.

He joked that hybrid could be introduce straight away if the Australian market provided sufficient sales volume.

A conventional hybrid – such as Toyota’s Prius – uses recouped braking energy to re-charge the batteries, while a plug-in hybrid, such as Mitsubishi’s new Outlander PHEV, can be pre-charged from a power socket and run on electric power for greater distances before the petrol engine takes over.

The new-generation Triton was shown in concept form as the GR-HEV at the 2013 Geneva motor show.

The powertrain was a standard hybrid, mixing diesel and electric power, and said to be capable of slicing CO2 emissions to just 149 grams per kilometre – 109g/km less than the current petrol Triton, or 63g/km less than the most efficient diesel variant.

The current Triton has been on sale since 2006, making it one of the oldest one-tonne utes in the market, along with Nissan’s D40 Navara.

Regardless of which electric powertrain Mitsubishi decides to adopt and when, the Triton is still likely to become the first such light truck to offer such a ‘green’ alternative to a fossil fuel engine.

The new Triton again will be built in Thailand for world markets, but this time around, it will not have to share the production line with Navara, as Nissan is building a new factory.

Mr Masuko also confirmed that Australia would get a new ASX compact SUV in both petrol and PHEV forms, while Japan would go only with PHEV on that vehicle.

He said the all-new Pajero would follow, with three powertrains for Australia – petrol, diesel and PHEV.

He did not outline timing for these new models, but both were previewed in concept form at the Tokyo motor show last year and will form part of Mitsubishi’s New Stage 2016 plan to reinvigorate the brand.

The Pajero concept – called GC-PHEV – was powered by a plug-in hybrid system in tandem with a supercharged 3.0-litre petrol V6, while the ASX concept, XR-PHEV, was armed with a 1.1-litre turbocharged petrol engine and plug-in battery and electric motor.

The ASX is expected to come within three years, followed by the Pajero.

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