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Mitsubishi to stockpile current Lancers into 2018

Grand designs: The Taiwanese-built Mitsubishi Grand Lancer is unlikely to replace the ageing Lancer in Australia anytime soon.

Small-car future still uncertain once Mitsubishi Lancer supplies dry up next year

Mitsubishi logo3 Oct 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) will stockpile as many current-model Lancers as possible, as production of the long-running small-car series finally ends in Japan this December.

While the move means that Australia is unlikely to receive any of the Taiwanese-built Grand Lancer facelift models released in some Asian markets earlier this year, it also raises questions as to whether a replacement is in the pipeline once Japanese Lancer stocks run dry for good.

According to MMAL president and CEO, John Signoriello, until the future of Mitsubishi’s small car becomes clearer, the company will commit to soaking up as much Japanese-sourced Lancer production as possible, to ensure a steady stream of stock for the ageing sedan and liftback.

“We have plans to keep selling that car well into next year,” he told GoAuto at a preview of the Eclipse Cross SUV in the Northern Territory last week. “So there is no short-term plan to get rid of it from a sales perspective.”

To the end of August, sales of the Lancer slipped about 10 per cent to 4877 units, well behind the segment-leading Toyota Corolla on 25,610 registrations, but ahead of newer competitors such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.

With a healthy run-rate of more than 600 units per month during 2017, the Lancer remains an important part of MMAL’s local line-up, even though the company prioritises SUVs and light-commercial vehicles globally.

“It still has its place in Australia,” Mr Signoriello added. “Our focus has been SUV and LCV, so the volumes now aren’t as big as they used to be back in the CE days (referring to the Lancer model sold between 1996 and 2003), but that’s purely because of that focus.

“(But while) I don’t see that focus changing, not in the short term… we are going to stockpile out of Japan.” Still, the 27-year MMAL veteran refused to rule out importing the Grand Lancer out of Taiwan once stocks of the Japanese-made cars start to dwindle later next year.

“If the business case is there and we can make it work, yes potentially,” he revealed. “But at this time, we are going down the SUV/LCV path and keep selling Lancer (out of Japan) for as long as we can. Nothing changes.

“We would consider another alternative, but it is not on the drawing board (at this time). Anything’s possible, but it hasn’t been our focus.”

While the Taiwanese-built Grand Lancer is a reskin with the new ‘Dynamic Shield’ corporate nose treatment, redesigned tail and overhauled interior, it remains fundamentally the same underneath as the 2007 CJ-series original.

As we reported back in June, Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MMC) chief operating officer, Trevor Mann, was adamant that the fate of a true all-new Lancer replacement would be revealed in mid-October.

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

If an all-new Lancer replacement does get the go-ahead, it would almost certainly share underpinnings with the next-generation Renault Megane and Nissan Pulsar due out early in the next decade, as part of the newly formed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

As confirmed last month, by 2022 the Alliance will build more than nine million vehicles on four common platforms, up from two million vehicles on two platforms last year, with MMC vehicles gaining access to the Alliance’s CMF common architecture and powertrains by 2020.

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