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Mitsubishi keeps 100k target

Trunk call: The Attrage sedan is expected to boost the local Mitsubishi line-up when it arrives sometime next year.

New models still years off, but Mitsubishi aims for 30 per cent sales boost in Oz

Mitsubishi logo27 Nov 2013

By TIM NICHOLSON in TOKYO

MITSUBISHI'S bold target of 100,000 Australian sales set by company president Osamu Masuko last year is still achievable according to the company's local marketing chief, despite a number of key models still years away from release.

Masuko-San flagged the target when speaking with GoAuto in October 2012, suggesting a then-50 per cent boost in sales was possible for the Japanese brand in Australia.

Speaking at the Tokyo motor show last week, Masuko-San said the target was still achievable given current sales levels and the roll-out of new product in the coming years.

“This year would be 70,000,” he said. “There are new products so next year the pick-up (Triton) will be all-new. It is loved by Australians too and we are introducing this and Outlander PHEV too so to make from 70,000 to 100,000, it’s not that difficult we believe.”

This year, local Mitsubishi sales have increased by 20 per cent, up from 49,778 units at the end of October 2012 to 59,674 in the same period this year, and the company is expecting a year-end total of around 70,000 units.

Continued growth for its aging Triton workhorse thanks to sharp deals has boosted the Japanese brand, as has the arrival of the Mirage city car, filling a gap in its line-up that was left after the demise of the slow-selling Colt in 2012.

The Mirage has recorded 7884 sales since its launch in January this year, adding incrementally to Mitsubishi's total, while sales of the Outlander SUV have picked up by 17 per cent this year over the first 10 months of last year, thanks to the arrival of the new-generation model in December.

These areas of sustained growth have countered the drop in sales for the six-year-old and counting Lancer small sedan and hatch (down 18 per cent) and the utilitarian Challenger off-roader (down 33 per cent).

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) director of marketing Tony Principe said the 100,000-unit annual sales target is realistic, pointing to a bullish dealer network as the means to achieve it.

“We sat down with our dealers and one thing we wanted to give them was some kind of long-term vision,” he said. “We spoke to them about it and we would like to think we can get to that (100,000) over the next three to four years, with the right product range.” Mr Principe said the jump from 60,000 sales last year to a projected 70,000 this year was partly due to a slightly renewed product range, but mostly the result of a more focussed dealer network growing their business “to a sustainable level”.

While the 100,000 sales target – or 30 per cent boost – sounds daunting, Mr Principe said it equates to a 10 per cent market share and given the company is close to reaching that level in some states, it is challenging but achievable.

“If we look at our two strongest states – Queensland and South Australia – we are getting about an 8.5-per cent share. If you could do the same thing with the other states, just with the current range, that would be up to 80-85,000 sales.

“And our weakness has historically been Sydney and Melbourne but this year they have lifted, and again we are looking to lift them further and further.”

Just prior to the Tokyo show, Mitsubishi announced a shift in focus to producing its core SUV models such as Pajero, Outlander, Challenger and ASX on its own, while traditional passenger models including a replacement for the C-segment Lancer and Galant mid-sizer would be developed in cooperation with automotive giant, Nissan-Renault.

This change in strategy under the 'New Stage 2016' three-year business plan included a greater focus on developing electric and plug-in hybrid drivetrains for future models.

Mr Principe said he is more than comfortable with the direction the parent company is heading in, especially given the brand strength of some of the SUV models in its local line-up.

“If we look at our brand strengths in Australia, the Pajero is probably our strongest brand. The Outlander is the newest kid on the block as it were and last to enter that segment but its been doing pretty well for the last four or five years. Again if you look at growth segments, SUV is the fastest growing segment.

“We have a long history and tradition with Pajero and Outlander, and the 2014 model year ASX is really starting to lift. We are in pretty good shape so if that’s where they are focussed, the fastest growing market area, we will take full advantage of it.”

Mr Principe said it was a relief to see the GX-PHEV full-size SUV concept at the Tokyo show, as it points to the next-generation Pajero that is well overdue for a replacement.

“I guess for us there has been a bit of a product drought you could say over the last three years so there is activity happening so it’s all good.”

The product drought will soon end however, with the Mirage-based light sedan – to be called Attrage in some markets while the name is yet to be confirmed for Australia – will arrive in local showrooms in the second half of next year, as will the all-new diesel Triton utility range with a hybrid powertrain to follow 18 months later.

Next generation versions of the ASX compact-SUV and Pajero off-roader – previewed by the XR-PHEV and GC-PHEV Tokyo show concepts respectively – are slated for release at some point during Mitsubishi’s three-year plan.

An all-new Triton-based Challenger is also on the cards, but timing for this remains unclear.

Mr Principe said the Attrage will be a welcome addition to the local line-up and will provide supplemental volume to the aging Lancer range, which is down by 18 per cent year-to-date.

“Even though Lancer has been down a little bit, the Mirage has made up and that smaller sedan (Attrage) we think we can augment what we are doing and hopefully in total we can keep growing that passenger side of things.

“We have been a little bit weak because we back in the old days we had a locally made car when D-segment was big but that’s shrunk so we have got to put our eggs into the C- and B-segment.”

Mr Principe said to expect more deals and minor upgrades to the Lancer range as the model nears the end of its life-cycle, but admitted that it is not sustainable to keep pushing prices down to levels beyond what they are now.

Some Mitsubishi dealers are selling the base ES manual Lancer sedan for $15,990 drive-away, just $1000 more than the top-spec Mirage.

“Maybe we can accept slightly lower volumes but better margins and keep the brand name until we get an all-new car. We don’t obviously want to dilute the brand. The Lancer is traditionally a very strong brand.” While overall sales mid-size cars in Australia are down by 17 per cent this year compared to last, Mr Principe said MMAL would assess the viability of a new D-segment offering to replace the long-discontinued 380 in Australia, should it be built in right-hand drive.

“Anything to give us something in that passenger segment we will always look at. If there is a business case, we know that we can say 'look give us incremental volume and incremental profits' then yeah, we would look at it,” he said.

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