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Upmarket new Mitsubishi Triton to launch in December

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

New-gen Mitsubishi Triton to arrive in Australia late-2014 with ‘five-star’ safety

Mitsubishi logo24 Mar 2014

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) says its next-generation Triton ute will attain the five-star ANCAP safety rating required to fight for major fleet sales against top-selling light commercials such as the Toyota HiLux.

But the long-awaited load-lugger due in Australia by December this year will also take a step upmarket, according to the company, pointing to a price rise over the current value-packed model. This will put pressure on the company’s dealers to maintain Triton’s strong private sales.

No model is more important to Mitsubishi’s volume goals than the Triton. It sold almost 25,000 4x2 and 4x4 models in 2013, equating to more than a third of its range-wide 71,528 deliveries.

The majority of these sales were to private buyers, largely self-employed tradespeople.

With only a four-star ANCAP safety rating, the Triton cannot be considered by big fleet buyers working under a framework that requires five-star vehicles be purchased.

The majority of Mitsubishi’s rivals in the LCV market – Nissan’s ageing Navara excepted – have a five-star safety rating. These include the top-selling Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and Volkswagen Amarok.

This dichotomy between fleet and private sales presents an opportunity for Triton volume to grow, according to the company, because the new safer version will be eligible for a large swathe of major fleets that overlook the current model.

The challenge will be keeping the value proposition strong enough to maintain its army of private buyers, attracted to the current four-star Triton because it undercuts most major rivals. The company is offering the GLX dual-cab for $30,990 driveaway, thousands cheaper than most Japanese rivals.

“It’s one of the things we’re actually going through in our planning now ... we’re already thinking about what we can do,” MMAL sales director Greg Cook told GoAuto last week at the launch of the plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

“The opportunity for us is to both maintain our private sales and grow into those other areas.”

MMAL marketing executive director Tony Principe added that “obviously the car itself is going to be a much higher-specced vehicle, so the current value proposition we’re going to have to re-evaluate”.

“Our goal is to maintain a value advantage over our competitors,” he said.

“That’s what we have to do.” In addition to the safety leap, MMAL says the new Triton will feature a higher level of standard specification, more cabin space thanks to a squarer design – albeit one that maintains a little of current car’s edginess – and a smoother, punchier and more efficient new four-cylinder diesel engine, expected to retain its 2.5-litre capacity.

About 18 months after the diesel utility’s launch, a conventional electrified hybrid version will also launch in a segment-first for Mitsubishi, which is repositioning its brand as a green one with vehicles such as the Outlander PHEV.

Mitsubishi previewed the new Triton with the radical GR-HEV concept at the 2013 Geneva motor show. Spy images of the production version indicate the design will be toned down from both the concept and even the polarising current-generation model, though it will not be dull, according to Mr Principe.

“From what we’ve seen the new one has still got more of a stylish element, it’s not a big box like some competitors,” he said. “The other advantage we think we have is the interior roominess.”

The new Triton will again be sourced from Thailand, and is due to arrive in Australia in November or December, although this could slip into early 2015.

The timing, says Mr Principe, is not ideal.

“November, December, is a bad time to launch,” he said. “The reality is, no matter what we do, it’s difficult to launch a car then ... and we haven’t been guaranteed the production start, so there’s a chance of slippage there depending on how they’re going with the Thai market.

“That will dictate what they do and don’t do, so right now we haven’t got a peg in the ground that says, ‘Right, this is where we start’... it’s bad timing regardless.”

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.