Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko gave industry journal Automotive News the clearest indication yet that the brand was turning its back on its traditional small car to instead focus on vehicles that sell well in the US, primarily SUVs.
“We are strong in SUVs and four-wheel drives, and that is what we would like to focus on as core models in the US market,” Masuko said.
“We have changed direction. We are going to allocate more resources to the areas where we are strong in the US.”
The writing has been on the wall for some time for the Lancer. Lacking the funds to develop a new-generation model on its own, Mitsubishi has been searching for years for a partner to co-develop a successor for the nine-year-old Lancer, but has been unable to reach a suitable agreement.
Masuko also confirmed the company has no plans for a successor to the Pajero SUV in any market, citing concerns about fuel consumption. The existing model, which dates as far back as 1999, is expected to continue to be sold in various markets for the foreseeable future.
Additionally, Mitsubishi won’t build a new dedicated electric vehicle to succeed the i-MiEV city car, and won’t resurrect the large Galant (Magna/380).
It’s not all doom and gloom for Mitsubishi, however, with the boss shedding more light on the rollout of the brand’s new and refreshed SUV range.
An all-new coupe-styled crossover inspired by the XR-PHEV and eX concepts will slot between the ASX and Outlander models in 2017. It will be followed by an updated version of the Outlander, likely in 2018.
Masuko suggested the compact ASX would have to soldier on until 2019, by which time it will be nine years old, before an all-new successor model is released. The brand recently unveiled the facelifted ASX (known as the Outlander Sport in the US) with a new ‘Dynamic Shield’ front-end design.
The electrified Outlander PHEV will be joined by a plug-in version of the new SUV coupe and an ASX EV around the end of the decade.
Mitsubishi claims its decision to focus on SUVs will help it cut costs and prioritise crucial investments. The Mirage, Triton and Pajero Sport models will continue unaffected in the refocused range, given strong demand in Asia-Pacific and other markets.