It’s no secret the Mitsubishi Pajero’s days are numbered, given it's been gradually withdrawn from sale in various countries around the world – including most recently its home market in Japan where the ‘Final Edition’ has been released.
However, while the Mitsubishi Pajero remains on sale in 70 countries – most of which are in Africa and South America – and will be available in Australian showrooms for the “foreseeable future” (likely the next two to three years), we now have the clearest indication yet it will not be replaced by another heavy duty four-wheel-drive.
The global chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motors globally, Ashwani Gupta, indicated the void left by the Pajero could be filled by a car-derived seven-seat family SUV similar to the Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder.
During a recent visit to Australia, Mr Gupta was asked by local media if there was any possibility Mitsubishi could extend the life of the Pajero by equipping it with the latest advanced safety aids and updating the 3.2-litre turbo diesel engine to meet future emissions standards.
Given the development and tooling costs have already been recouped since this generation Pajero went on sale in 1998, Mr Gupta was asked if it would it be financially viable to simply update the existing vehicle rather than drop it from the line-up, or develop an all-new one.
“It’s too early to say because we are still continuing the production for Australia. We are working on the next mid-term plan,” said Mr Gupta.
When asked if it was viable to extend the life of the existing vehicle to meet modern safety and emissions standards, Mr Gupta again said: “It’s too early to say.”
When asked how long the Pajero would remain in production, he said: “Is there an end date? Yes, but it depends on the market.”
Mr Gupta was then asked if there could be a gap between the end of the current Pajero and the arrival of a new generation model.
“It’s too early to say, but for sure this kind of model needs high maintenance. The (cost of meeting) regulations and so on”, said Mr Gupta, who also described the Pajero as “very niche” model by global standards.
Mr Gupta indicated Mitsubishi, as with all car companies, would direct its limited investment funds on future models that compete in more popular segments of the car market.
“We don’t see a great opportunity (to invest in a vehicle such as a Pajero replacement) as compared to the other opportunities we have,” he said.
When asked if it was possible that, if there were to be a next generation Pajero would it return to a heavy duty body-on-frame design, Mr Gupta said: “It’s too early to say. First of all you have to see the new Mitsubishi SUV on our C and D platform. You will see.”
The car industry uses A, B, C, D and E to describe vehicle sizes. For example, A and B segment cars are usually small hatchbacks, C segment vehicles are mid-size cars and SUVs, D segment refers to large cars and SUVs and E segment refers to limousine vehicles such as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Mitsubishi and Nissan are currently working on a jointly developed platform that can stretch and contract to cover both C and D segment vehicles.
It is thought the D segment SUV that Mr Gupta is referring to could be a jointly developed seven-seat soft-roader to slot in above the current Mitsubishi Outlander – and may even be a twin under the skin to the next generation Nissan Pathfinder.
“On the C and D platform we can have a C segment SUV, we can have a D segment SUV and we can have any other SUV,” said Mr Gupta.
Mr Gupta and his Mitsubishi colleagues would not be drawn further on the discussion about a full-size four-wheel-drive wagon to replace the Mitsubishi Pajero when it eventually reaches the end of the line – or the possibility of a larger version of the Outlander shared with the next Nissan Pathfinder.
The recent alliance between Mitsubishi and Nissan was originally thought to have extended a lifeline to both the next generation Pajero and Patrol, given that both vehicles have struggled with high investment costs and relatively low sales. Jointly developing both vehicles could provide the economy of scale needed to make them financially viable.
However, current indications are that once the Mitsubishi Pajero and Nissan Patrol reach the end of their planned production cycles some time next decade, there might not be a replacement for either, handing the market almost exclusively to the Toyota LandCruiser.
Although an updated Nissan Patrol is just around the corner, the future of the next generation Nissan Patrol will be determined by the forecast in demand in the US and the Middle East, where it is sold as a petrol-only model.