The iconic Mitsubishi Pajero will finally reach the end of the road next year, as the Japanese car giant embarks on an aggressive cost-cutting mission.
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The Mitsubishi Pajero will reach the end of the production line in 2021 after a 39-year run and more than 3.3 million sales globally, the Japanese car maker has confirmed.

After years of speculation – and several attempts to save the Mitsubishi Pajero from extinction – it will stop production in the first half of 2021.

The news comes as Mitsubishi posted its largest financial loss in 18 years and indicated it would make a slow retreat from Europe and focus on Asia, where the brand is more profitable.

The announcement was made in Japan overnight at a high level board meeting which, ironically, celebrated the Mitsubishi Pajero's dominance of the Paris-Dakar Rally from 1985 to 2007 – during which time it clocked up a record 12 wins, including seven in a row from 2001 to 2007.

A statement from Mitsubishi Japan said: “Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, at its July 27, 2020 board of directors meeting, resolved to stop production in first half of 2021 and close the factory of its domestic production subsidiary Pajero Manufacturing.”

The statement continued: “To establish appropriate production capacity based on the new mid-term plan, we have decided to stop production and close the factory of Pajero Manufacturing. Vehicle manufacturing of Pajero Manufacturing … will be transferred to Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s Okazaki factory.”

This latter part of the statement refers to other vehicles also made at the facility – the Mitsubishi Delica van and Mitsubishi Outlander SUV – but the tooling to continue to manufacture the Pajero will not be moved across to another facility, CarAdvice understands.

CarAdvice has been told it would cost too much to replace the ageing tooling used to manufacture the Mitsubishi Pajero, and the company could not justify further investment given the market shift towards "crossover" recreational vehicles, rather than highly capable off-roaders.

More than 150,000 examples of the Mitsubishi Pajero have been sold in Australia since the first one arrived in 1983 as a two-door, followed by a four-door in 1984.

Four generations of Mitsubishi Pajero have been made since 1982, with the last one due to roll off the Japanese production line by the middle of 2021.

The current generation Mitsubishi Pajero went on sale in 2006 and is now 14 years old, though its underpinnings date back to the model introduced in 1999.

In Australia, sales have largely been in freefall since 2010, as buyers switched to car-derived "soft-roaders" and SUVs.

Faced with stronger competition, the Mitsubishi Pajero never returned to its previous sales highs set in the early 2000s.

Sales of the Mitsubishi Pajero in Australia last year were one-third of the nameplate’s peak, set in 2002.

In 2019, Mitsubishi Australia reported 2847 Pajeros as sold versus 8490 in the year 2002.

The current Mitsubishi Pajero will be 15 years old when it retires next year, which is more than twice the model cycle of previous generations, which were overhauled every seven years.

Global production of the Mitsubishi Pajero peaked in 1992, when 174,708 examples were manufactured. The Japanese factory’s biggest export year was in 2000, when 129,198 examples were shipped overseas.

However, the Mitsubishi Pajero started its steady global sales decline in 2008.

Sales halved in the grip of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 (to 58,000 sales after a spike of 112,000 sales in 2007) and the nameplate never truly recovered.

The Mitsubishi Pajero has averaged about 50,000 sales per annum globally for the past decade, less than a third of its production peak, and an output generally regarded as unprofitable for a mainstream model.

Although sales of the Mitsubishi Pajero in Australia are down by 36 per cent in a market that has fallen by 21 per cent year-to-date, demand surged in June – up 160 per cent versus the same month last year – as buyers embraced recreational vehicles and four-wheel-drives to holiday at home.

While the writing is on the wall for the full-size Mitsubishi Pajero, the name will live on with the smaller and cheaper Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (pictured below), a heavy duty four-wheel-drive based on the Mitsubishi Triton ute.