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New York show: Mitsubishi Lancer future bleak

Stalwart: The current-generation Mitsubishi Lancer, in production since 2007, will be discontinued next month but its future remains up in the air.

Lancer to be killed off in US, but next Mirage sedan to grow in size

29 Mar 2016


THE future of the Mitsubishi Lancer is looking grim, with the car-maker's North American arm pulling it from its line-up, while a suitable partner to help produce a new version is still yet to be locked down.

While not specifically referring to the Australian market, Mitsubishi Motors of North America executive vice-president Don Swearingen told reporters at the New York motor show last week that the 43-year-old nameplate will soon disappear from the United States at the end of 2017.

“There will not be a replacement for the Lancer in the future,” he confirmed, ending speculation on what exactly the company will do with the current, nine-year old design.

Last year, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan revealed that its joint-venture negotiations with other car-makers – notably the Renault-Nissan Alliance – ceased, putting the future of a Lancer replacement in jeopardy, as there was no chance that the company would develop one without a partnership.

It is believed that a lightly made-over version of the next Nissan Pulsar or upcoming Renault Megane might have saved the day before all talks were called off.

“If we find (a partnership), and we’ve been talking to a few, and the business case presents itself, we’d surely explore that,” Mr Swearingen said.

A statement from Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) said that it had “no decision to announce” regarding the Lancer's future in Australia, leaving a question mark over how much longer the ageing model can soldier on.

The statement highlighted the company's global strategy to transition to a range that focusses on SUVs and EV technology, and reaffirmed its plans for a strong SUV line-up.

“As Australia's number two brand in combined SUV and LCV sales, Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMAL) is well placed to take advantage of the changing market.

“However, Lancer plays an important role in Mitsubishi's local line-up and we expect this to continue for the foreseeable future.

“At the same time, MMAL will continue to service the rapid growth in demand for SUVs with our current and future portfolio, covering all of the major SUV segments – small, medium and large – with ASX, Outlander Pajero Sport and Pajero.”

Meanwhile, the bottom end of the passenger-car market is looking much brighter for the Mirage micro car, which will live on and evolve in the future, according to Mr Swearingen.

While the five-door hatch will remain more or less the size it is today, the next-generation sedan version is expected to be stretched to put it directly into the Honda City/Mazda2 Sedan segment.

“Mirage is growing tremendously for us,” Mr Swearingen said.

“The two versions of it – sedan and hatchback – will be the sole passenger cars (in our line-up). They’re on different platforms actually, and you’ll see the sedan grow a little bit, the hatchback will stay about the same… and you’ll see a style change coming.”

A belated replacement for the Galant (380 in Australia), which went out of production in the United States in 2012 after a 43-year run, is also unlikely, with Mr Swearingen suggesting that it does not make financial sense for the brand.

The mid-sized sedan market, while still worth millions of sales in the United States annually, is conceding to the mighty SUV, forcing rivals with far-deeper pockets than Mitsubishi to put more resources into marketing in a bid to sustain consumer interest.

“We’ve looked at it closely, we’ve talked with partnerships with other car companies, and it’s a great market,” Mr Swearingen revealed. “But it’s controlled by few, with huge marketing expense and huge incentives. Frankly, as we look at the business case, it does not pencil up.”

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