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Mitsubishi Pajero soldiers on

Going strong: Mitsubishi is looking forward to its new wave of ‘soft-roader’ SUV models, but local management remain firmly committed to the long-in-the-tooth but ‘intrinsically strong’ Pajero.

New wave of softer SUVs in pipeline for Mitsu but Pajero still has its place: MMAL

Mitsubishi logo27 Oct 2016

By STUART MARTIN

MITSUBISHI’S Pajero large off-road wagon continues to soldier on in the face of speculation that its demise is just around the corner as the Japanese brand works on restructuring its SUV line-up with new-generation ‘soft-roader’ models across high-volume segments.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) executives this week again dismissed ongoing suggestions that production of the veteran Pajero – which can trace its lineage back to the 1999 NM series – would cease, pointing to its recent upgrade to meet Euro 5 emissions standards for the 2017 model year.

“It has been announced by MMC that it will continue in its current form,” MMAL product planning manager James Toll told GoAuto.

“There are still strong markets for it in the Middle East, Latin America we’ll keep taking it and we sell 300 a month. While demand is still there we’ll keep taking them.

“It’s intrinsically a very strong product, it’s as good as the other off-roaders out there, it’s still capable and that bit bigger than the Pajero Sport, so there’s a meaningful place for it in our line-up.”

Mr Toll and MMAL sales and marketing director Tony Principe were unable to confirm whether Mitsubishi’s product development schedule and launch timetable would be affected by its new alliance with Nissan-Renault.

There is no replacement for the Pajero on the horizon – the last sighting came with the 2013 GC-PHEV (Grand Cruiser) concept – but, as GoAuto has reported, Mitsubishi has revised its SUV strategy in the past couple of years that will see the next-generation Outlander push up into the large segment – possibly with styling elements of the GT-PHEV shown at the recent Paris motor show – and the small ASX, previewed by the 2015 eX concept, move down a notch.

This will leave room for an all-new mid-size SUV, which according to Mr Principe will be based on the original XR-PHEV (Cross Runner) shown at the 2013 Tokyo show alongside the GC-PHEV.

This was subsequently updated with the XR-PHEV II shown in Geneva last year (pictured below).

“As announced there are three models – there’s the third one (mid-sizer) coming and there’s got to be an opportunity there to sell more SUVs. In terms of our SUV line-up we’re probably second to none,” Mr Principe said.

“In the next two years we’re likely to see it. It’s based on the XR-PHEV that was at the 2013 Tokyo motor show. That’s basically what is coming to market, but we don’t know what happens to that timetable relating to the Nissan deal.

“We’d like it sooner because we’re always in a hurry.”

The new wave of SUVs will join the harder-core Triton-based Pajero Sport and the long-in-the-tooth Pajero, with Mr Principe emphasising that the latter remains a key part of the brand’s SUV range which has performed well in the marketplace to offset declining passenger car sales volume.

Mitsubishi’s overall SUV sales in Australia are at 30,203 units to the end of September, up 34.1 per cent on the same period last year. This puts the brand in fourth position in terms of SUV sales, behind Toyota (48,629), Mazda (35,947) and new alliance partner Nissan (30,276).

The brand as a whole, with passenger cars included, is up 3.6 per cent this year, with 55,514 sales.

“ASX is at record levels despite it not being a new model, Outlander is at record numbers,” Mr Principe said.

The ASX has sold 13,642 units so far this year – up 45.1 per cent and second only to the Mazda CX-3. Outlander has sold 8854 units (up 18.7 per cent), for fifth position in the ultra-competitive mid-size segment – well behind the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Forester.

The Pajero Sport, with 4415 units, has outsold the Pajero (3312) so far this year by almost 1100 units as well as exceeding its Challenger predecessor’s sales rate.

“When you compare Pajero Sport to Challenger, at 200 a month, we’re averaging 500 a month with the Pajero Sport without being particularly aggressive,” Mr Principe said. “It’s very strong.”

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