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Tokyo show: New Mitsubishi design chief hops to it

Tough stuff: Mitsubishi wants to give its products a robust look, even if they are small electric vehicles like this eX Concept shown at the Tokyo motor show.

How Aussie roo bars figure in Mitsubishi’s tough-look new design identity

Mitsubishi logo2 Nov 2015


A FORMER Nissan design chief who is now plotting Mitsubishi Motors’ styling makeover with its ‘dynamic shield’ design language has revealed how Australia’s signature roo bar plays a part in his design process.

Tsunehiro Kunimoto – TK to his friends – says he learned at Nissan that he needed to consider the uniquely Australian device when overseeing designs for large SUVs and utes.

Once Nissan’s global design manager and now executive officer of Mitsubishi’s design office, Mr Kunimoto told Australia journalists that for the new Challenger replacement, the Pajero Sport, he had several types of roo bar sent to his studios so he could check how they sat with the new front design.

“I put them on the designs because I want to ensure they are good looking, even with the roo bar on,” he said last week at the Tokyo motor show, where Mitsubishi revealed his latest concept, the small eX crossover wagon that will form the basis for the next ASX.

Mr Kunimoto revealed that one of the vehicles he worked on at Nissan was the Patrol large SUV, as well as excitement machines such as the GT-R sports coupe and Skyline sedan.

Recruited by Mitsubishi to reinvent its styling, Mr Kunimoto said he wanted the new look to be tough and robust, not just on its SUVs and light-commercial vehicles, such as the Triton, but also its passenger cars.

He said Mitsubishi’s reputation in many of its key markets such as South-East Asia was of toughness and reliability – traits that he was seeking to instil in the new design language.

Mr Kunimoto said consistency of design was also important, to give the brand a recognisable identity.

The new eX Concept that Mitsubishi Motors president Tetsuro Aikawa confirmed as the template for the next-generation ASX has the latest take on the Mitsubishi ‘dynamic shield’ fascia that is making its way across the range.

Although the little vehicle – slightly smaller than the current ASX – is all-electric in its concept guise at the show and thus has no need for a big black grille, Mr Kunimoto said he still employed tough truck techniques to give the vehicle front a rugged appearance.

That included a high bonnet to give the appearance of mass.

Mr Kunimoto said he positioned the daytime driving lights high on the front of the vehicle to warn others of the approach of the car, and then set the headlamps low to reduce the risk of the light blinding other road users.

He also spoke about the challenge of incorporating new safety technologies in the latest vehicle designs while retaining a stylish outcome.

He said he not only had to incorporate three types of radar for various safety technologies, such as autonomous braking, but also an extra pair of lights, front and back, that lit up to warn other drivers when the eX was in self-driving mode.

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