Mitsubishi Motors North America has essentially pressed the reset button on their lineup, jettisoning such well-known but unloved nameplates such as the Endeavour, Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder, and the Galant. This was done so that they could dump the slower-selling models, in order to concentrate on their volume models like the Lancer and Outlander Sport (their best-selling vehicle). Also, since their long-term plan is hybrids and plug-in electric cars, they’re also selling their i (formerly the i-MiEV) as well…although current sales numbers have not met their expectations. Even though the i is the lowest-priced electric vehicle in America (factoring in the $7,500 tax credit, it starts at around $21,625), consumers have been put off by its diminutive size and perceived lack of quality. Having acknowledged this, Mitsubishi officials have conceded that the next alternative vehicle will be a plug-in hybrid. Once can assume that it will be shaped similarly to the kingpin of all hybrids, the Toyota Prius.
So, besides the i, what else does Mitsubishi have in store? For starters, it has recently introduced the Outlander, still the least expensive seven-seat CUV for sale in North America. The new flagship is scheduled to go on sale here in the States next July, with a plug-in hybrid to debut in 2014. In regards to that, it will feature front and rear-mounted electronic motors, and an 2.0L four-cylinder gasoline. For those seeking a crossover with traditional propulsion, it will be offered in four-cylinder (2.4L with a CVT), or the 3.0L V6 mated to an 6-speed automatic transmission. Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) all-wheel drive system will be an option, regardless of which engine you choose.
Engine options are unknown at this point, but look for hybrid and (eventually) full electric variations to roll out in the next few years. Mitsubishi is looking for their at least 20% of their lineup to have electric-drive technology by 2020.
Lastly, what about their biggest saloon, the Mitsubishi Lancer? The stalwart (itself a replacement for the outgoing Mirage back in 2003) of the group , codenamed CJ, has had its replacement delayed by at least two years. Don’t look for a new one to be sold in Mitsubishi dealerships by at least 2014, although we hear that a concept will be released in 2013. The reason given is that they need to focus their time and resources to more profitable segments, re: SUVs. Hence the recently introduced Outlander.
As with the other vehicles, look for a hybrid variant as well, and possibly a plug-in version, but only if it makes sense to do so. They’ll probably have to wait and see how the conventional/hybrid numbers look for a couple of model years before making that decision.
Speaking of hybrids, they’re mum on whether or not the Lancer Evolution will be renewed…presumably as the Evo XI. It’s all but certain that turbocharging will not propel the gasoline engine, but rather a pair of electronic motors that would power the front wheels, while the traditional engine will power the rear wheels. Of course, the S-AWC will make a return. Another hot rumour is that the petrol engine will go away to make room for a diesel engine. Now, before Evo purists decry at their powerplant being an oil-burner, just know that it’s strictly a rumour, and Mitsubishi will not do it unless it can produce more power, better acceleration, and better fuel economy (the last part is critical to the Evo sticking around for another generation).
How does Mitsubishi plan on promoting all of these products that are scheduled to roll out in the next few years? Simple…by raising the advertising budget! MMNA is asking their Japanese parent to for money, just enough to double the advertising budget. For now, they are requesting the money to promote the new Outlander and Outlander Sport. Their current budget? A paltry $85 million. Now, that might seem like a tonne of money, but considering that most automakers spend at least $100 million to launch a single vehicle, it’s tiny in comparison.
So, will Mitsubishi be able to pull off an increase in sales and market share? They think so, and are gambling that shuttering the slower-selling well-known models and banking on smaller vehicles, as well as hybrids and plug-ins will do the trick. Even though the Evo may or may not return, if they are to be successful, then they’ll need to come out with home runs, not just a base hit. Every product launch has to be executed flawlessly, from quality control, to an advertising campaign that gets people to talking and more importantly, in to the dealerships.
It’s crazy enough, that it just might work.