Mitsubishi president promises product-led future

Mitsubishi Outlander

MITSUBISHI president Tetsuro Aikawa has flagged an “exciting year ahead for new product” for the brand.

Aikawa, an engineer for 30 years who was appointed to the top job last year, said he would work to rebuild the Mitsubishi brand both in Australia – the fifth-biggest market for the carmaker – and globally.

“I am passionate about product,” he said at the launch of the latest-generation Mitsubishi Outlander in Australia today.

“Appointing a car guy as head of Mitsubishi Motors, it means a new and unique product direction. Product will be my key objective as president.”

Also key would be a focus on SUVs – the Outlander and ASX were the brand’s third- and fourth-best sellers behind the Triton ute and Lancer small car – but would also continue to focus on building EV and PHEV into another pillar for the brand.

“In Australia, this market is still young. However, as environmental regulations get tougher I expect demand for these vehicles to increase in future,” he said.

“Not everyone in Australia stands to benefit from EV/PHEV, but there are many who will for commuting every day.”

Mitsubishi only has one plug-in electric vehicle on sale in Australia, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It still offers the expensive city-friendly i-MiEV hatchback to Australian customers, but only as a special-order vehicle.

Aikawa said now that Mitsubishi had achieved stability, “we have challenged ourselves to deliver new market-leading products, new packaging and technologies, all of which are backed up by advancements in quality”.

“We are working on new product for Australia and around the world,” he said. “These products must be the best in design and technology to rebuild the Mitsubishi brand.”

Mitsubishi is gearing up for a new-model rollout in Australia that should help it shift from having one of the oldest new-car showrooms of the mainstream manufacturers – the Triton ute was launched in 2006, the Pajero launched in 2008 but based on the underpinnings of the previous-generation large off-roader, and the Lancer launched in 2007 – to one of the newest.

New versions of the Pajero and Lancer, and the Triton-based Challenger SUV launched in 2009, are due next year, while the ASX small SUV, updated in 2012 from a model launched in 2010, will need to carry the nameplate for a few more years.

The fresh-look Outlander, launched this week, was another example of Mitsubishi’s new product direction, Aikawa said.

“[The] new front face design is called Dynamic Shield design concept. It will be consistently applied to our future models,” he said.

However, while the so-called 2016 model-year Outlander wears the new corporate nose, the “2015” Triton work ute due on sale in Australia in May doesn’t, suggesting there may be a wider path opening up in the showroom between passenger and commercial vehicles.

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