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Mitsubishi to announce passenger car plan in October

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9 Jun 2017

MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation chief operating officer Trevor Mann has revealed the company has “not concluded” whether passenger cars should continue as part of its line-up, but he explained that a decision will be made and announced to the media by October this year.

Speaking with Australian media at an event in Sydney this week, Mr Mann – who was appointed to the position of COO by Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn upon the company’s takeover of the brand last year – admitted that Mitsubishi’s strong SUV line-up was not matched in passenger cars.

“The long debate is what do we do with the passenger car,” he acknowledged.

“The passenger car question is being asked in more than just Australia – I was in Europe this week and people asked the same questions about passenger vehicles as well, so we need to find a good solution.

“That solution is not only just the car, but where the car will be made to make sure that we’ve got a strong manufacturing base to supply not only Australia but other markets around the world.

“We’ve got a strong heritage product with Lancer. I don’t have a lot more on Lancer at this point in time, but that will come out in our longer-term plan in October.”

Asked whether Mitsubishi Motors Corporation had already made a final decision on what to do with its ageing passenger vehicle lineup, Mr Mann replied: “It’s not concluded because there’s a number of things that we need to decide on.”“(That includes) which vehicle in which segments, and we’ve also got to understand where those vehicles will be manufactured to make sure that we have a competitive advantage supply base of those vehicles.

“We’ve also got to look at what platforms we have available to us through the (Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi) Alliance. From a commercial point of view, we’ve got to have scale volume. So that question is still ongoing.”

The timeline gives Mitsubishi Motors Corporation four months to finalise whether the Lancer small car, the current generation of which dates back to 2007, will be replaced potentially by a hatchback and sedan range based on the Nissan Pulsar or Renault Megane.

“I guess in the near future (a decision will be made) because we will have to crystallise this for our mid-term plan to be announced in October,” Mr Mann continued.

“So it will be announced then.” However, he added that with development work having not started on any future Mitsubishi small car.

“Basically, we’re going to sell Lancers for as long as we can,” he said.

Mr Mann strongly reiterated that “on a global basis” Mitsubishi Motors Corporation would not walk away from the passenger car segment altogether.

“If you look at both the US and China, it (passenger cars) is still a significant part of their industry, similar I guess to Australia but on 20 times the scale,” he continued.

“There are still relatively large volumes (although) it’s a global trend that particularly the sedan seems to be dying. Hatchbacks in some areas are having a bit of a resurgence but sedans seem to be dying off.

“In the US and China, more buyers are leaning towards SUVs. The Africas, Indias, Latin Americas are still strong in sedan vehicles.”

However, with only Mirage and Lancer in its current non-crossover range, and this year’s production Eclipse Sport compact SUV set to join the ASX, Outlander, Pajero Sport and Pajero, it was clear that SUVs would remain the focus.

“I think we couldn’t not focus on SUV – if you notice the double negative there,” he reiterated.

“We’ve got to focus on SUVs because one – it’s our heritage and two – it’s where the market is going, not only in Australia, but globally. If you look at our record here, an ambition within the ambition for us is to be the clear number two SUV brand, which I think is achievable for us here in Australia.

“If you look at ASX, ASX was number two in May on a year-to-date basis in the small SUV segment. The Pajero Sport was the number one selling ute-based SUV.

Outlander is doing very well in its segment and Outlander plug-in hybrid is number one in the electrification segment of all vehicles. So that is where we are strong, together with the Triton.

“So we’ve got to make sure that we punch above our weight in those segments.”

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