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Why Mitsubishi needs to revive Pajero to take on in-demand Toyota LandCruiser | Opinion

Mitsubishi's Pajero is an icon for the brand, but no new version is on the horizon.

It was a staple of the brand’s line-up for nearly 40 years and the final model lasted for 13 years on sale. So where is the new Mitsubishi Pajero?

Mitsubishi admits the nameplate has become an icon for the brand, but as we write this story today there has been no official word on when, or even if, a new Pajero will arrive. Which not only seems like a loss for the brand in terms of its overall line-up, but a major missed opportunity given the huge demand for the Toyota LandCruiser and even the ageing Nissan Patrol.

The waiting list for the LC300 has ballooned to 12 months thanks to overwhelming demand for the popular off-roader, while sales of the now 12-year-old Patrol are currently up more than 117 per cent year-to-date according to the May sales data.

Mitsubishi will immediately point to the Pajero Sport as a would-be replacement for the Pajero itself, but that conveniently overlooks the fact the Triton-based SUV arrived in 2016, so the two models happily lived side-by-side for years.

Mitsubishi is enjoying a strong start to 2021, with sales up nearly 13 per cent, which has boosted it to third on the sales charts. However, this is likely due, at least in part, to supply problems for rival brands and not simply due to the popularity of Mitsubishi’s current range.

No doubt, the company is well-positioned at present, with the Triton, Outlander and ASX all performing well in their respective segments. The problem becomes when you look down the road and outside the Australian market for other models the brand could add to supplement the well-performing trio. 

Frankly, there isn’t much there.

The Xpander people mover? Hardly likely to be a sales hit. A Japanese market Kei car? They’ve never really taken off in this market.

No, what Mitsubishi needs to secure its place at the top of the sales charts is a new SUV. And what better SUV to add than a genuine LandCruiser-rivalling off-roader with an iconic nameplate.

Bringing back the Pajero should be the top priority for the brand - at least in the Australian market - but the question becomes ‘how?’

The obvious answer is to partner with Nissan to co-develop a replacement for the Patrol as well as an all-new Pajero. Mitsubishi’s former management even suggested as such when the brand became part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but since those early years talk has gone cold.

Obviously developing an all-new Pajero would be an expensive proposition and a challenging one in the face of ever-stricter emissions regulations, but given the long-running success of both the Pajero and Patrol, finding a way to make it happen should be possible for the two companies.

As we’ve previously speculated, having the two off-roaders share a platform and powertrains would be logical, allowing for the development costs to be split across two brands. Especially given that any next-generation of either would likely need a more efficient powertrain.

Fortunately for Mitsubishi, it has plenty of experience with plug-in hybrid technology that would seemingly be ideal for a new Pajero, as it would allow for improved fuel economy while staying away from increasingly unpopular diesel engines. 

Unfortunately though, for anyone looking for a LandCruiser alternative it seems Mitsubishi isn’t planning anything along these lines. Given the lack of rumours, speculation or official comment, it seems the Pajero could be gone for the foreseeable future…