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Mitsubishi’s future is in SUVs: 2015 Toyko Motor Show

Mitsubishi says its future is in SUVs, as the brand’s design boss tells Practical Motoring the Evo is dead and a pajero replacement isn’t in sight. Yet.

MITSUBISHI’S GENERAL MANAGER of Design is Mr Kunimoto, which means he is the man in charge of how Mitsubishis of the future look, feel and connect with their owners, as distinct from engineering which is the technical work to make the design come alive. So what might we expect from Mitsubishi going forward?

Mr Kunimoto indicated the future focus for the company was going to “be about SUVs”, and felt there had to be “new ways” of “expressing strength”, talking about “challenge and evolution”.  However, like any designer, he doesn’t however have a free hand to design what he wants and made particular reference to the “very stringent European CO2 standards in 2020”.  These will drive a focus on weight reduction and efficiency, and see increasing use of a basically FF (front engined, front driven) platform as we see now in the Outlander and ASX, albeit one that can also drive the rear wheels as required.

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Offroaders haven’t been forgotten, and the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (previously Challenger, changed as part of a global name alignment) will be launching shortly in Australia, and available in dealerships before the end of 2015.  No word yet on whether “Pajero” will be used in South America, or whether the UK will lose their Shogun name which is what they know Pajero as.

Speaking of Mitsubishi’s flagship 4X4, there is no replacement Pajero in sight, and when pressed Mr Kunimoto said only it “would be a while”.  The current model is on a platform first seen in 2000, so that’ll be money’s worth out of that development for sure.  Mitsubishi say they “will update” the Pajero, but weren’t to be drawn on what that might be, or when.  I was hoping for an indicator of a new motor and six (or more) speed automatic, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  However, there is now an improved infotainment unit in the MY2016 Pajero which we’ve briefly covered here.

It seems like only yesterday that Mitsubishi shocked the offroading world with fully-independent suspension and a partial monocoque platform… and how the naysayers have been proven wrong over the last fifteen years!

Here’s what we learned about Mitsubishi’s SUV and 4X4 lineup:

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The entry model will be the ASX, and the concept car for its replacement will be the eX (Electric Crossover) Concept. We’ll publish a detailed post on this car and its technology later. 

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The EX Concept, electric crossover SUV.

Next up from ASX will be the XR-PHEV II, first shown in 2013:

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This will be slightly larger than ASX, but “more premium”, and based on the Outlander platform.  Then there’s the Outlander itself (full test of the current model here), including the hybrid version we have today, the PHEV.   There don’t seem to be any plans to extend the PHEV technology to the two Pajeros, but it will feature in the SUVs.

Above the Outlander-based vehicles there will be the Pajero Sport, and Pajero which look to be the more serious offroad vehicles – certainly our early analysis of the Pajero Sport indicates it will be a vehicle that touring offroaders can buy with confidence, continuing Mitsubishi’s strong reputation for offroad vehicles.  In fact, we hear that Mitsubishi recently held focus groups and were impressed by the commitment of Challenger owners to their vehicles, and just how often and far they are taken offroad.   Good that they’re listening!   Both vehicles will be diesel-only, as Mitsubishi do not see much of a future for petrol 4X4s based on sales figures, and given less than 5% of Pajeros are sold as manuals in Australia we can expect automatics only in the future.

We also had a chance to talk to the president of Mitsubishi Motor Corporation, Mr Aikawa. 

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He confirmed for us there “will be no direct successor” to the much-loved Evo all-wheel drive rocket, but mentioned that the technology of the Evo is used elsewhere, specifically in the all-wheel drive systems used in the hybrid and electric vehicles.  He also foresaw a time when Mitsubishi could use PHEV technology to make a sports SUV hybrid – “an Evo type of vehicle even though it is an SUV”, but was quick to qualify that there “are no real concrete plans, but it is my dream that this will be realised”.

It was clear that emissions, efficiency and the environment very much drive Mitsubishi’s future plans, as they do for all carmakers these days.  Mr Aikawa was also sure the range of electric vehicles would improve (Mitsubishi claim 400km for their eX Concept), and as he said the electric technology is “like a baby just born” it is fair to say there is a lot of improvement we can look forwards to.  There was confirmation that a hydrogen vehicle is planned, but “in the far future”.  Mr Aikawa also thought that Europeans might prefer smaller SUVs rather than larger 4X4s.  That would be right for them, but not for us Aussies!

In the C-segment car space (think Focus, Astra, Corolla, Mazda3) Mitsubishi is looking for a partner to work on replacing the Lancer, but say one is “hard to find” and in the meantime they will be “continuing on and strengthening the product”. 

These days, even the largest car manufacturers work with each other to develop new cars and as Mitsubishi is not the largest of car companies co-operation to develop is even more critical.  That can lead to very good cars, as typified by the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, and Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 to name but two recent success stories.  Mitsubishi certainly has a lot to offer a potential partner, so we look forwards to developments.

Robert Pepper travelled to the 2015 Toyko Motor Show as a guest of Mitsubishi Motors Australia.


1 Comment

  1. trackdaze
    October 29, 2015 at 10:02 am — Reply

    I’m sorry Mitsubishi an infotainment system just don’t cut it. Especially when I can get a tablet for less than $100 to do much the same thing.

    A proper update would be to include some off road tech such as hdc etc. If they were smart the 2.4mivec in the Triton would have been scale able up to 2.7-3.0 or, twin Turbo for towing.

    Afaik you can’t have a credible suv range if you don’t have a proper offroader.

    Presumably there are significant delays foreseen in the joint venture between Bosch/yuasa/mits for the 50kwh solid state battery pack that would be the backbone of the concept shown in 2013. 2020 I heard is the earliest.

    The concept the basis of this story has 45kw of batteries. I’m guessing this will be a Frankenstein battery of existing stuff.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper