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Future models - Mitsubishi - Magna

New Magna an Easter bonnet in New York

City slicker: The " XR" Magna, shown here as perceived by artist Bernie Walsh, is likely to be displayed at the New York motor show.

New York is set to preview the vital "XR" Magna to the world

24 Jan 2003

MITSUBISHI Australia's vital "XR" Magna range appears set to be revealed to the world at the New York auto show next Easter.

The car to be previewed by Mitsubishi Motors North America will be the Diamante, built in Adelaide for North American consumption, which will go on sale in the US in September.

The new Magna, codenamed XR, is due to be launched in Australia around mid-year. It is a $70 million upgrade of the Magna face, tail and interior, designed to get the car through until 2005 when an all-new replacement is due.

And happily for Mitsubishi Motors Australia's export ambitions, MMNA is promising increased promotion of Diamante to lift sales significantly, from last year's 14,000-odd to around 20,000 per annum.

MMNA is also keen to expand the range of Diamantes it sells from the current line-up of base model ES, luxury LS and soft sportsVR-X (which lacks much of the equipment the VR-X gets here).

That wishlist includes more sports versions and the new four-wheel drive variants.

An announcement on this issue could also be made at the New York show.

There is also the possibility of Ralliart Magna heading to North America following the establishment of Mitsubishi's go-fast division in the US, including a pro rally team.

But MMNA sales chief Greg O'Neill told GoAuto the key was better marketing of the Diamante to boost sales, rather than expanding the range.

"It's an easy excuse to say we need more selection but the truth is we need to market that car," Mr O'Neill said.

"We are pretty decent marketers here, we have done a good job of getting our brand out and we haven't given that car a dedicated marketing push.

"That's our fault because we ran out of real estate basically.

"There's only so many days in the week and dollars to spend.

"Our plan with the re-skinned Diamante is to give it its own marketing push and we think on a marketing effort alone we can get it up to that level (20,000 sales per annum).

"Right now we are in an incentive war with it (Diamante) but come September we are going to be switching gears and go into a marketing push on it."Mr O'Neill expressed enthusiasm for various Australian-built Magna derivatives, but was particularly excited about the prospect of being able to secure the 180kW Ralliart version of the Magna for North American sale.

But he said homologating the Aussie-tuned engine for the US emissions standards was a major hurdle.

"That's a homegrown unit so to speak, so we are working right now with MMC in Tokyo to see what we can do to standardise it for the USA," Mr O'Neill said.

"But we're very interested."Mitsubishi's performance in the US over the past four years has been a rare highlight for the struggling company, setting new sales records each year. It also started selling cars in Canada and Mexico last year.

... but this is the wheel deal

WHILE the re-skinned Diamante is important for MMNA in the short term, it is the all-new long-wheelbase version of the Magna replacement due in 2006 that is far more important long-term.

That car will be built in Australia for North American consumption as the Diamante replacement. The Americans will build the short wheelbase version themselves and call it Galant.

Both cars will be based on the new platform that will also underpin the Endeavor cross-over wagon launched at Detroit and the Eclipse coupe andconvertible sports cars.

Mr O'Neill told GoAuto that MMNA was getting "weekly input" into the LWB car.

"Our design studio in Cypress is involved in the project," he said.

"Obviously, North America is a key market not only for the Australian team but Mitsubishi worldwide, so we are right upfront in the design process andespecially because it's coming off aderivative of the car that's being built here, so we are keenly involved."Mr O'Neill said MMNA's priority was to ensure the powertrain fitted to the car was competitive with its "semi-luxury" rivals.

The next generation car is expected to get a 3.8-litre V6 engine, replacing the current 3.5.

"It doesn't have to be the most powerful but it does have to be in the standard of its rivals," Mr O'Neill said.

"And the exterior styling - although that's subjective - still has to be that Mitsubishi style, which now means a little sexier and a little more aggressive."

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