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Upcoming Mitsubishi Challenger expected to do better

Busted: GoAuto snapped a Mitsubishi Challenger mule undergoing local calibration work in Adelaide last month.

Trick new engine to star in redone Challenger as Mitsubishi eyes expanding segment

29 Apr 2015

THE forthcoming Mitsubishi Challenger SUV is set to inherit the best of the just-launched fifth-generation Triton ute – and it will be expected to improve upon its current sales as a result.

Mitsubishi's third-generation Challenger has found 660 homes in Australia in 2015. It sold a total of 1739 units in 2014 – nearly 3000 less than its nearest competitor, the Isuzu MU-X, but 200-odd more than Holden’s similar Colorado7.

GoAuto snapped pics of a pre-production Challenger undergoing testing in Adelaide last monthMitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) head of product planning James Lot said that many of the new technologies shown in the just-released Triton, including the 4N15 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine, will make the jump to Challenger.

“That would be a natural expectation,” he said. “It’s our cutting edge technology. It’s as good as it gets from us – and it’s pretty darn good, actually. It’s very quiet, combustion noise is right down, torque delivery is excellent, and it’s a very easy engine to drive.”

Mr Lot said that despite the Challenger's low volume in Australia, it is an important model for the brand.

“Australia is a key market for Japan,” he said. “Of course, the expectation is that our parent company will want us to do better with that car, and to help us do that they will listen to us and make sure the car fits our requirement.

“We only sell 150 Challengers a month in the current market, but that’s actually not terrible. It’s a good car for us for our volume and profitability.”

Mr Lot dismissed suggestions that the Challenger’s relatively low sales volumes precluded it from going through an expensive local calibration process.

“There’s no issue in having no say based on previous (sales) history,” he said.

“We’ll have some say (developing the car), then the pressure will be on us to sell.”

Mr Lot confirmed that the Challenger replacement would receive the same treatment as the Triton.

“We have good input on it like the Triton,” he confirmed. “Just in the normal development process, we would visit MMC a number of times where we do various evaluations, give feedback and so on.

“Just like Triton, we want to make sure that the vehicle performs in a way that suits our market, the kind of characteristics that suit the taste of Australia, and Challenger will be no different.”

The market for pick-up-based SUVs is small, but growing, and the quality of the competition is improving all the time, according to Mr Lot.

“It’s probably a bit harsh for all of those competitors and us that it’s ‘just’ a pick-up based SUV,” he noted. “They’re all becoming more refined over time – and so have the utes, for that matter. And as the utes get better, they’re getting better.”

He also noted the growing segmentation of the upper-SUV market.

“You’ve got the offroad SUVs above a line at $55,000 like Pajero, Prado and so on, and these newer ones like Colorado7, MU-X and our Challenger are sitting in this other group of more affordable SUVs below $55, 000,” he said.

“Just looking at how that market is segmented, it’s actually starting to grow.

There is a growing demand for a more affordable offroad SUV, and part of that is perhaps driven by the successes of Jeep, who sell a number of cars in that price space. We can certainly see some market potential there.”

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