The ageing Mitsubishi Lancer could be forced to fight on beyond a decade of production, with the company’s boss admitting a successor will not arrive until 2017 or 2018, if at all.

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Mitsubishi Motors president Osamu Masuko told CarAdvice it would take the Japanese car maker “about three or four years” to ready a replacement for the current Lancer, though once again stopped short of confirming an all-new generation of the long-serving and historically popular nameplate.

The company’s continued reluctance to confirm a replacement for the eight-year-old Lancer has stirred speculation that Mitsubishi could drop the model from its line-up and instead increase its focus on SUVs and light-commercial vehicles – a strategy it reiterated at this week’s Paris motor show.

Speaking via an interpreter at the show, Masuko said there had been no decision on whether a successor to the current Lancer would be available in sedan and hatchback form, or only one of the two.

“We have to think from now, because a decision has not been made for the successor yet,” he said.

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If Mitsubishi does go ahead with a new-generation Lancer, it will most likely be based on a platform shared with fellow Japanese brand Nissan and its alliance partner Renault. Masuko confirmed this remains one option available to the car maker.

Australian sales of the current Mitsubishi Lancer peaked in 2010, when the company sold 23,076 sedan and hatches. That number more than halved to 11,408 last year, and the slump has continued in 2014, with sales down a further 26.3 per cent to 7250 to the end of September. Its share of the small car segment has dropped from 10.0 per cent to 4.1 per cent in the past four years as rivals have, in contrast, focused heavily on the segment and launched new and updated models.

Mitsubishi remains committed to launching all-new versions of the Triton, Challenger, ASX and Pajero by March 2017, though in the same period will also cut the number of models it offers globally to 13 – down from 23 in 2010 and 18 at the start of this year.