It looks like Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) will take a lead role in developing the pickup/ute platform used across the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance on the next-generation Triton (L200), Navara and Alaskan.
We already know this ute trio will share a common architecture in (potentially) different states of tune, wearing different designs and with different cabins, but we now know MMC expects to be the Alliance member chosen to run the project.
In short, the member best suited to run a certain platform development will in theory control the project, with financial and engineering/design assistance from its partners during the cycle. Each brand can focus on its bread-and-butter, and just borrow tech to underpin the rest.
MMC chief operating officer, Trevor Mann, an ex-Nissan executive, was asked at the launch of the updated Triton if the unseen next-gen model would use next-generation Navara parts. Given MMC is the Alliance’s junior partner, this was the expected situation.
Pictured: Updated 2019 Triton, no relation to Navara
His response? “I think it's the other way around. It’s not a promise but if you look at the expertise we have…”
Jointly developing platforms means there’ll be more money to invest, meaning Mitsubishi will theoretically have the budget to make the next pickup architecture what it wants, instead of being constrained by costs. It cuts Alliance-wide R&D spend without hindering the product capability.
“Based on the expertise question, the company with the most expertise at a certain category would take the lead, which is why I intimated we would be the potential leader for frame [body-on-frame] platforms,” Mann added.
This is the wider strategy moving forward across the Alliance, the three-way Franco-Japanese cross-sharing arrangement designed to slash development costs by reducing unseen duplications, and save vast swathes of cash by upping production scale and purchasing power.
‘“We have 4x4 expertise, and we have framed vehicle expertise. Obviously Nissan also has a level of 4x4 ability, but I think what we have in terms of our AWD system, that defines our brand and is a brand differentiator,” Mann added.
Mitsubishi’s S-AWC system means the Triton is one of the only utes that can driven in 4H (4x4) mode 100 per cent of the time if desired.
What we should take away from this is that the next Nissan Navara will have more in common with the next Triton, than the other way around. For context, Nissan has already felt forced to make two suspension updates to the D23 Navara since 2014...
Whether Mercedes-Benz uses this architecture for its next X-Class, or takes that project in-house now it’s done due diligence remains to be seen. It’s also unclear what’s happening with the Fiat Fullback.
The next-generation diesel Triton and Navara models are due around 2021, with a PHEV (plug-in hybrid) version to lob at the mid-cycle upgrade in 2025.
“I think it’s fair to say that by 2025 electrification will have to happen and we can easily convince ourselves that there might be innovations to be done to bring a form of electrification that brings toughness, reliability and no range anxiety.
"I think it will migrate towards heavy and tougher vehicles,” Vincent Cobee, MMC’s VP of product development, told us.
“Just to be clear; towing, load, maintenance, PHEV can achieve it all, we just need to spend enough.”