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Sustainable challenges for Mitsubishi

Time to deal: Mitsubishi Motors Australia will employ a number of retail initiatives to keep Lancer sales alive until the new model arrives in 2014.

MMAL aims for significant growth this year despite limited resources

Mitsubishi logo22 Jan 2013

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

MITSUBISHI is confident of achieving a 15 per cent sales increase in Australia this year on the back of key new passenger vehicles, improvements to existing lines and ongoing aggressive marketing programs aimed at keeping buyers interested in older models.

But with limited resources and product lines after a difficult five years of global economic recession, the Australian arm admits to having to choose its battles to fight after switching from local manufacturing to being a full-line importer in 2008.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd expects to top 70,000 sales this year after selling just 58,868 vehicles last year – a 3.7 per cent drop from 2011.

The company believes its re-entry into the prospering light-car segment – Australia’s second-largest in 2012 – with the all-new Mirage will be the main growth driver.

A strong response to the third-generation Outlander launched in December, which helped boost the compact SUV’s sales by 5.9 per cent overall last year, is expected to be maintained in 2013, helped by the introduction of the long-awaited PHEV version – Australia’s first plug-in hybrid SUV.

 center imageFrom top: Mitsubishi ASX Mirage Outlander PHEV.

Another crossover – the popular ASX (up 8.2 per cent last year) – will benefit from the introduction of an automatic transmission with the diesel engine as part of a mid-cycle refresh later this year.

MMAL’s head of product and market strategy Tony Principe told GoAuto this week that the consistent success of Outlander and ASX demonstrates that Mitsubishi has grown with the SUV market over the past five years, but has not had an effective answer to the likes of the Toyota Yaris in the light-car segment since the demise of the previous Mirage nine years ago.

“If you look at 2012 over 2011, we have been running at record levels with ASX, Challenger and Outlander – and Triton has been at an all-time record level for us – but we’ve deteriorated at the passenger vehicle end, with only Lancer,” he said.

“We haven’t had a light car, so obviously the Mirage is a key for us in terms of attacking that passenger end. It is a big opportunity for us.

“All the deterioration came out of the Lancer and previous Colt, which ceased during last year, while the Lancer is in a very competitive end of the market.

“Our focus now is to improve the passenger side of things.”

Lancer dropped 18.1 per cent in 2012, but a series of value-for-money marketing actions over the next 18 months leading up to the next-generation model in mid-2014 will be designed to keep it competitive in the booming small-car segment.

MMAL vice-president for customer and brand Paul Unerkov said the company would try to maximise Lancer sales until the new model arrives.

“This year Lancer is about price and value. It will be highly specced, at a good price, and keeping it really competitive,” he said.

“We’ve always talked about sustainable growth, so we’re keen to get Lancer volume up to where it was, and if we can build with the new model on top of that, then certainly that would desirable.”

Expect to also see a four-door sedan version of the just-launched Mirage light car – though Mitsubishi has yet to confirm its existence – as the next Lancer may move a little upmarket, creating space below $18,000.

There is talk also of a Mirage-based petrol-electric hybrid, perhaps as soon as next year.

Next year will also see the launch of an all-new Triton ute range (sales of which were up almost 10 per cent last year), with the Challenger seven-seater SUV (up 7.2 per cent) following soon after.

The 12-year-old Pajero (down 8.1 per cent) will be completely redesigned for 2015, possibly based on a future medium-sized sedan to replace the recently discontinued Galant line.

A second-generation ASX is set for introduction in 2016, although it is not clear if it will continue to be sprung off the Lancer/Outlander platform, or lighten up and assume a new role as a Mirage-based B-segment crossover.

Mr Unerkov said that while it would be ideal to pitch a competitor in every segment, MMAL’s immediate challenge is achieving sustainable growth with limited resources.

“We’re not the biggest we’ve got to focus our resources, and our resources are about Triton and Lancer and Mirage and Outlander – these have been our priorities,” he said.

“We are getting cars in some segments that we haven’t been able to play in, that are also segments that are growing in the marketplace. So we’re looking forward to that, and the product planners have done a great job getting the right cars.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to have everything and be everywhere, so we have to concentrate those resources in segments that give us the most opportunity.

“New Outlander, new Mirage – that’s a segment we haven’t played in for eight or nine years – give us a great opportunity.

“We’re at 60,000 (sales a year), so there’s an opportunity for us to get to 70,000, which will give us an increase in share.

“We’re also bringing the first plug-in hybrid SUV to market, the ASX diesel automatic is another one, people have been talking about an Outlander diesel automatic for a long time, and now we’re finally bringing cars to the marketplace in some of these growth segments.

“An increase in passenger car sales is where our volume increase will be.” What’s coming from Mitsubishi
Mirage hatchJanuary 2013
Outlander PHEVH2, 2013
ASX diesel automaticH2, 2013
New-generation LancerMid 2014
Lancer hybrid2014
New-generation Triton2014
New-generation Pajero2015
New-generation Challenger2016
New-generation ASX2016
New-generation Galant mid-sizer2016

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