Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) remains on the lookout for a partner to help it develop and launch a long-overdue next-generation Lancer, but admits the cupboard at present remains bare, and that it is in fact a low-priority project.
In the interim, Mitsubishi remains committed to producing the current eight-year-old model in perpetuity despite it being a generation older than rivals — a strategy that mirrors its approach with the 16-year-old Pajero off-roader — with a stream of regular equipment upgrades, styling tweaks and improved value.
Since its proposed deal with Renault-Nissan to source its next C- and D-segment passenger cars fell through after the cost analysis failed to stack up, Mitsubishi has remained at an impasse.
Speaking with CarAdvice this week in Tokyo, MMC president Tetsuro Aikawa (below) said the company wanted a partner, because its modest development budget meant it simply couldn’t go it alone even if it wanted to — a point which is itself uncertain.
“We’re going to be still looking for OEMs [meaning other brands to partner with]… One thing I can say is for us to actually develop a sedan independently… it’s very difficult to do that,” he told us via an interpreter.
“…What I feel is it’s not a matter of priority. Fact is it’s very difficult to find a partner. If we can find one then as soon as possible we’d like to get OEM supply but right now we are not able find any partner.”
As we know, the company sees its future as comprising a global range made up predominately of SUVs and light commercials, with the notable exception of the baby Mirage that it will continue to develop in-house in subsequent generations, due to its success in luring new buyers in the vital ASEAN region.
But a new Lancer remains arguably an important model for the brand in many markets where small passenger cars sell in high numbers — Australia being a perfect example. Despite the boom in small SUVs such as Mitsubishi’s own ASX that cut the lunch of such cars, the segment remains the market’s most popular.
One product that will help in the meantime is the all-new SUV line due in 2017, which Mitsubishi will position between the ASX — which will itself shrink in next-generation MY18 guise — and the Outlander.
One OEM partner option might be Fiat Chrysler, which is vocal about its need to find partnerships to better absorb costs through scale. MMC already has deals to provide FCA with the Mirage light car and Triton ute for developing markets, after all.
Of course, any such deal is strictly confidential and naturally, Aikawa-san would not comment.