Mitsubishi has reportedly begun design work on the long-awaited next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer despite the form and future of the long-serving and historically popular Japanese small car remaining very much up in the air.
Speaking with Wards Auto, Mitsubishi Motors North America executive vice president Don Swearingen confirmed the car maker was still hopeful of partnering with another manufacturer to develop it’s next-gen compact model, but insisted the company had been forced to start its own internal design program in case no suitable deal could be struck.
“We are talking with a potential partner at this time, [but] at the same time we’re doing an internal design of the vehicle,” Swearingen said.
“We’re running parallel because we cannot wait any longer to see if a partnership will work out. If it falls through then we’re another year behind.”
It’s believed Mitsubishi is currently in talks with fellow Japanese car maker Nissan about a partnership deal to co-develop a pair of C-segment models, one being the new Lancer. Earlier negotiations between Mitsubishi and Nissan’s alliance partner Renault fell through.
Swearingen’s revelation appears to signal a shift in the brand’s thinking when compared with recent comments from Mitsubishi Motors president and COO Tetsuro Aikawa, who told us in March it was unlikely there would be a new Lancer under his tenure.
“While I’m the president probably no introduction of the next-generation Lancer… We will continue to sell the current Lancer,” Aikawa said.
Comments from Mitsubishi Motors president and representative director Osamu Masuko in October revealed any successor to the current Lancer would be “about three or four years” away, suggesting we won’t see a new model until the end of the decade at the earliest.
The current-generation Lancer is now in its ninth year of production, and already well overdue for replacement.
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 in 2013, and the slump has since continued. Sales just tipped into five figures last year, tallying 10,033, and are down a further 2.2 per cent so far this year.
The local Lancer range currently includes the sedan, which is priced from $18,990 plus on-road costs, the GSR hatch from $21,990, the Ralliart sedan at $37,990, and the Evolution sedan from $52,990.