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Future models - Mitsubishi - Magna

Pause on Magna all-paws

All paws for effect: Magna AWD may have a limited lifespan.

Mitsubishi will offer an all-wheel drive passenger car, but for how long?

4 Dec 2002

MITSUBISHI will be the first Australian car-maker to offer an all-wheel drive passenger car when it releases the Magna AWD in January, but the longer term future of Tonsley Park's all-paw Magna appears far from certain.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia president Tom Phillips has confirmed that, despite his company's efforts to convince it otherwise, parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has no plans to develop an all-wheel drive version of the next generation Magna.

"At this stage the (2005) car has not got an all-wheel drive component," Mr Phillips told GoAuto at last month's Magna AWD launch.

"That's not to say we don't want one or won't get one, but right now if you ask anyone in Japan 'is there an all-wheel drive version of this 2005 car?' they say no. But that doesn't mean that we're not going to be trying to make it happen."Due on sale just after the all-new VE Commodore in the final quarter of 2005 - by which time both Holden and Ford will include recreational all-wheel drive crossover vehicles in their ranges - the all-new Magna is seen as the saviour of Australian manufacturing for Mitsubishi.

But a lack of four-wheel drive technology in the new vehicle, which will comprise 75 per cent local content but not be produced in wagon guise, would leave MMAL without an all-paw Magna variant in less than three years.

"It would be a great pity if we don't continue this (AWD) concept into the new car," Mr Phillips said.

"We've got to do whatever we can to make sure we don't become known for AWD, do it for three years and then just forget it."Four-wheel drive aside, however, the 2005 car - which now seems likely to continue with the Magna name - is projected to double Magna exports almost immediately, with total production expected to increase from this year's 48,000 to about 66,000 units per annum.

It is believed the current (TJ Series II) based Magna AWD will go on sale in January and continue to be available beyond the release of the facelifted Magna in July, 2003.

Codenamed XR and with redesigned front, rear and interior styling by Olivier Boulay, the facelifted $70 million Magna will not sprout an all-wheel drive variant until around September next year.

The heavily updated 2003 Magna will comprise a line-up similar to what is currently available, meaning it will continue to be exclusively 3.5-litre V6-powered (the 3.0-litre V6 was discontinued with the TJII update in August).

But MMAL is also hopeful of securing a four-cylinder engine for the 2003 Magna.

While the return of a four-cylinder Magna is also possible, it would be an export-only model with the aim of breaking into the lucrative Middle East fleet market, which is dominated by Toyota's Camry.

"I tried and I'm still trying (for a four-cylinder)," said Mr Phillips.

"I haven't given up but so far I haven't got anything yet. The longer it goes the less chance it will happen because it (production) is at least 18 months from the time you get the approval."Mr Phillips said the engine MMAL was considering was a 2.4-litre produced by MMC in Japan, but it was yet to be sourced at a competitive price.

WHAT'S COMING:
Outlander off-roader: January 2003
Triton facelift, new diesel engine: March 2003
Magna "XR" facelift: July 2003
Colt small car: early 2004
Magna replacement: late 2005

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