Mitsubishi’s recent financial successes mean development of a new performance model is closer than ever. Bosses hint that a long-awaited replacement for the Lancer Evo supersaloon is highly likely to be based on the next-generation Mitsubishi ASX crossover.
Mitsubishi’s UK boss, Lance Bradley, says the next generation of ASX will launch next year with four-wheel drive available. A two-wheel drive model using plug-in hybrid technology will launch at a later date. Bradley said it “isn’t a huge jump” to develop a performance model from that point. “We can afford to take that risk.”
According to Bradley, the financial case for the ASX Evo is yet to be made, but said: “When you’re not making money, there are things you can’t do. When you are making money you can do things that are good for the brand, but won’t necessarily make that much money.
“We’re not at a point where it’ll definitely happen, but we’ve got a lot of senior management talking about it.”
Mitsubishi has previously said any new performance model will use hybrid technology, and will draw on learnings from the i-MiEV Evolution II Pikes Peak race car. We can expect the next ASX to borrow styling from the design study XR PHEV crossover concept (pictured above) seen at this year's Geneva Motor Show.
The firm’s resolve to build niche SUVs has been strengthened in the UK by impressive sales of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The firm sold 10,000 last year, which was ahead of the Netherlands – a core market for electric cars – and Japan, to become the world’s biggest market for the car.
After the ASX goes on sale next year, Mitsubishi will turn its attentions to the all-new Mitsubishi Shogun. But Bradley scotched fears that the car will become another lifestyle-led SUV. He said: “A Shogun must look like a Shogun. Our buyers want an ‘authentic’ off-roader”.
He also confirmed a plug-in hybrid Shogun is also on the cards. He said that the success of the Outlander PHEV has proved there doesn’t have to be an established market for a new niche model, but in order for such a car to succeed it needs to be good enough to change perceptions.
The new Shogun will form a core part of Mitsubishi’s drive to push itself upmarket slightly. Bradley believes there is space beneath Land Rover that Mitsubishi can operate in successfully. “But we must have our customer’s permission to launch in a new segment”, he said.
He said the next-generation of Mitsubishi models are likely to have a more premium look and feel inside. Japanese buyers demand an interior that is solidly constructed and still looks new after ten years, but European buyers want more elegant styling. Mitsubishi’s recruitment of former Nissan design boss Tsunehiro Kunimoto is likely to accelerate the process of delivering more premium interiors.
“He understands what European buyers want”, said Bradley.
Success with more expensive fuel-efficient models relieves the pressure on Mitsubishi to build lots of small cars to keep average emissions low. He said that small cars generate far smaller profit margins. But he suggested any increase in price for more fuel-efficient models would be slight – or non-existent. “We can take the brand upmarket a bit and we must advance our four-wheel drive and PHEV offering – but we can’t charge extra for it.”
He credits part of the success of the Outlander PHEV to it’s pricing, which allows dealers to easily move would-be Outlander diesel buyers into PHEV models.