Mitsubishi says it will likely focus on its strong points in the SUV and light commercial vehicle segments while it looks to rebuild its fortunes, before venturing back into the passenger car segment.
The news signals a potential end for models such as Lancer and Mirage in short to medium term.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the Geneva motor show today, Trevor Mann, the long-time Nissan executive and recently appointed chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motors, said that while no decision on the future of models such as Lancer and Mirage has been made, the focus for the brand is likely going to be on its strengths in other segments.
“We have to really consolidate where we are,” Mann told CarAdvice.
“The world is really changing and it's going in one direction, going more towards SUV type of vehicles. Gradually but surely, country by country, it's going from sedan type vehicles to SUVs and I think that’s where we've got to consolidate our strength, because at our size we can’t be spread too thin.
"We only have a finite resource in how much we can invest in new platforms and new car technologies, so we really have to consolidate where we are strong - and where we are strong happens to be where the market is going at the moment.”
“We can never say never, obviously we have a short term focus, we have a pipeline with vehicles that we have developed... but this is the design direction that symbolises what we are going to do in the future.
“Some of the older cars and the stronger names might not continue, but I don’t think that’s a problem. And you look at many brands and their history, they’ve changed their names and designs and you got to keep changing to move forward and keep with what customers what.”
The future of the Lancer will be decided before the end of March, however, a public announcement is unlikely for the foreseeable future. But, going by Mann’s comments, it seems grim.
“You shouldn’t keep banging the same drum [just] because you have that drum. With the scale, we will be able to share common platforms, common powertrains and have similar product line up [to Renault-Nissan alliance] if we want.
"I am questioning internally ‘what do we want and what do our customers want?’… because if you start saying 'we have always had a Lancer so we should always have another Lancer', I say ‘should we’?
According to Mann, once Mitsubishi has built a stronger position on its current strengths, in may again look at other models.
“What we got do is make sure we are very, very strong and robust where we are and then start kicking off where we think we have opportunities.”
Mann says that with most manufacturers, the majority of their volume and profit comes from three to four core models and that’s where Mitsubishi has to focus its efforts and resources for the foreseeable future.
“If you look at how we perform, and how other manufacturers on a similar scale perform, and even manufacturers who have a relatively much larger scale and have a long line-up, there is only a few cars that make the difference.
"You’ll see that, depending on the brand, that 60-90 percent of their sales are on three of their products. So my view is we should focus [on those] but for the right reasons, not the negative reasons... Make excellent product where we know are strong, and grow into a strong company.”
The current Mitsubishi Lancer is almost a decade old, making it one of the oldest models in the Australian market still on sale today.