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Mitsubishi keeps faith in passenger cars

While SUVs continue to grow in popularity, Mitsubishi believes vehicles such as its Lancer, are pivotal to the brand's future.

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation chief operating officer Trevor Mann suggested that despite the growing uptake of SUVs, its passenger vehicles will play an important role in the company's future.

“We are in the process of developing what we call our long-range product plan. What we are doing there is just studying the market and trying to decide where we should go,” he said.

“If you look at the car parc today, there are many small hatches, there are many medium-sized sedans, particularly in ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and to some extent Oceania, China and the US. In Europe, sedans have been dominated by the premiums I guess over recent years.

“But the general trend is to move towards SUVs, so at the moment the profitability on sedan and small-to-medium sedan vehicles is squeezed because people are trying to justify their existing capacity.

“Obviously as a brand you need entry vehicles, you need to ideally bring somebody into your brand and then walk through the brand as their lifestyle changes, be it financial or family-driven.

“We are reviewing our long-range product plan – we’re not saying yes, we’re not saying no – but obviously we’ve got some ideas in the pipeline.”

According to Mitsubishi's corporate vice-president of product strategy Vincent Cobee, passenger vehicles still take up a lot of its total sales internationally, and so a new-generation Lancer small car or Mirage light car could be on the cards.

“If we project ourselves five years, the total global market will be 110-115 million cars and the passenger cars will still represent 40-50 million,” he said.

“I know all of you guys write about the growth and emergence of SUVs, and it’s correct; it’s 35-37 per cent of the total market today and it’s still growing. But that doesn’t eradicate the fact that there will be 40-50 million cars that will be traditional passenger cars.

“It is very clear … the strong (progress) of the Mitsubishi brand is four-wheel drive, SUV, ASEAN and all of that is supporting the development of those cars and the development of the Pajero Sport and the trilogy of Outlander, Eclipse Cross and ASX.

“What we have said is that as a complementary offer to enable customers to enter the franchise, and to also satisfy the CO2 regulations, and to cater to those 40 million customers, we will investigate the possibility to look at passenger cars – so we have in our wish list, some intention to do passenger cars.

“We are contemplating which kinds of segments, which kinds of destinations, while acknowledging the slowly downward trend of that segment, but for sure not a disappearance.”

In Australia, the Lancer and Mirage account for 8.9 per cent of Mitsubishi's sales in the first 10 months of this year, at 6289 units from a total of 70,685.

Mitsubishi ended Lancer production late last year, and so the Mirage is the brand's sole passenger car nameplate – for now.

Passenger car sales have steadily declined in recent years, do you expect this trend to continue? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.