No immediate replacement for long-serving sedan

The venerable Mitsubishi Lancer will exit Australian showrooms before the end of 2018 and begin an indefinite hiatus, until a potential successor is created using a platform from its Alliance partners: majority owner Nissan, and French brand Renault.

Production of the small sedan and hatch stopped at the end of 2017, more than a decade into the outgoing car’s generational life-cycle, in all factories except for those supplying Taiwan and mainland China.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMAL) was able to secure enough final-run stock from Japan “to cover sales for probably the whole of this year” says CEO John Signoriello, but after that the company’s 45-year old nameplate will exit, stage left.

Once this stock of 2017-built models is gone, MMAL will have only one conventional passenger car, the ultra-budget Mirage that fights in the flagging Micro Car segment, with the rest of its models competing in growing SUV and light-commercial spaces.

From a business perspective this tactic makes perfect sense, but it’s a little hard to picture a Mitsubishi stable without a Lancer in it. It also sold about 7500 of them last year here, so the volume isn’t insignificant.

“We’d hope that medium- or longer-term, the opportunities the alliance brings might end up bringing some sort of solution in that passenger segment,” Signoriello said.

“... It’s on the decline, where’s it going to stop? It’ll plateau at some point.

“What we do know is the SUV strategy we undertook a few years ago is actually the right one,” he added.

Signoriello is spot on. MMAL was the third-biggest seller of SUVs in Australia last year, moving almost 48,000 ASXs, Outlanders, Pajero Sport and Pajeros – up 17 per cent over 2016. The new Eclipse Cross (above) launched this week will grow this further still.

This all drove the brand to more than 80,000 sales overall, fifth in-market behind only Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Holden, and overtaking Ford.