Mitsubishi Motors is looking at a viable way to create a dedicated performance plug-in hybrid model — a model it wants to endow with all-wheel-drive and its hallowed Evolution, or Evo, badge.
This stance on the fate of a long-overdue new Lancer follows similar comments from the company last October at the Paris motor show.
CarAdvice spoke with Mitsubishi Motors president and COO Tetsuro Aikawa at the Geneva motor show today, where the company was previewing its XR-PHEV II concept that previews a new ASX (pictured above).
This would seem the logical base for an Evo were a new Lancer not available, given Mitsubishi is making SUVs its core business and the ASX replaced the Lancer as its global top-seller.
Aikawa-san said Mitsubishi needed to retain a link to sportiness somehow, and said the best way to marry its new focus on electrification with its performance heritage was the make a “king of the PHEVs”.
“I think it’s necessary to have something,” he said, via interpreter. “Actually in the future I would like to call the ultimate PHEV ‘Evo’… King of PHEV should be called Evo.”
Aikawa said the potential for a PHEV to offer low-down torque via an electric motor, and offer a reactive AWD experience via its Twin Motor 4WD system that delivers power independently to the front wheels (from the front motor and/or engine) and rear wheels (from the rear motor) was there.
“I think there’s more potential, low-speed torque and 4WD control is more precise. This is very superior [to conventional internal combustion performance].”
Performance hybrids aren’t unknown, in fact an increasing number of supercars are using hybridisation. In regards to the higher cost, Aikawa said increased scale from its mainstream electrified vehicles was the key.
“We would like to sell more PHEVs and EVs, create more profit and thereby use that profit to create the higher performance vehicle, that would be the next step,” he said.
But do not expect to see the Evo badge on a new Lancer any time soon. Aikawa reiterated and built on the company’s stance that there was little potential in that small-sedan segment for the brand, especially now it has opted to sever a proposed model-sharing plan with Renault.
“Unfortunately, for a while we are not planning any development of sedans,” he said.
“While I’m the president probably no introduction of the next-generation Lancer… we will continue to sell current Lancer.
“There are two reasons for that. One of the reasons is because, concerning the investment on development, we’d like to concentrate on SUV, PHEVs and EVs. That’s one reason.
“The second reason is because sedan, in the world, is a very high competition at the moment and it’s very difficult to come up with a profit.
“A year ago, we did a feasibility study on a joint venture with Renault, but it was not a win-win scenario so we decided to stop. That is one evidence showing the sedan business is very difficult.
"We’re not going to engage in new development of sedans any more, so as sedan Evo will not be developed in future. But we understand a lot of people’s expectations towards Evo.”