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Mitsubishi: Slick ZT won't replace 380

Concept, not reality: ZT does not constitute a 380 successor, says Mitsu.

Mitsubishi boss says Concept-ZT is not confirmation of its large-car replacement

17 Sep 2007

MITSUBISHI has hosed down speculation that the Concept-ZT will automatically be the replacement for the 380 in Australia – from the very top.

Speaking to GoAuto at this week’s Frankfurt motor show, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) president Osamu Masuko refused to acknowledge the role of the Concept-ZT in Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited's future.

“This is only a concept car,” Mr Masuko said through an interpreter.

“We are not thinking about what it will replace.”

Mr Masuko would only reveal that the Concept-ZT points to the direction of a possible medium-sized sedan in Mitsubishi’s near future.

“We haven’t decided if we are going to make a large car at all,” he said.

“It’s going to take some time (because) we are what is driving up petrol prices and also environmental issues.”

With a raft of models coming out over the next three years that are based on the GS ‘global’ platform underpinning the latest Outlander and new Lancer line-up, Mr Masuko was keen to divert attention from large cars to his company’s burgeoning small-car portfolio, as well as its increasing reliance on vehicles with ecological attributes.

“If you think about environmental issues, small cars are going to be the main thing in the world,” he emphasised.

We understand that the Concept-ZT uses a variation of the GS platform, and that it will be presented showcasing MMC’s first in-house passenger car diesel engine – a 2.2-litre direct-injection unit delivering 140kW and meeting Euro5 emissions standards – co-developed with Mitsubishi’s truck division.

21 center imageMMC Japan spokesman Hidenori Uki echoed Mr Masuko’s comments on the prospect of the Concept ZT becoming the next 380 in Australia and the next Galant in North America.

“The new concept car for the Tokyo motor show (next month) is only a study car,” he said, insisting that production feasibility investigations have not yet been completed.

Asked whether MMC must surely have some idea about what the future holds for the 380 and Galant, Mr Hidenori pedalled the same line as Mr Masuko.

“We have to consider the environmental performance for a vehicle of that sort.” Mr Hidenori said.

“Also, in the Japanese market, small cars are very popular and also the European market. But we still have to consider the American and Australian markets, and if large cars (are still) popular,” he added.

With the 380 recording one of its most disappointing sales performances to date last month, Mr Hidenori suggested that Mitsubishi has to lift its volume before MMC would proceed with investing in a large-car successor in Australia.

Nevertheless, he seemed confident that this is possible with the current 380, by improving its economy and performance.

On the topic of using the Adelaide plant’s production surplus to soak up some of the demand for Mitsubishi’s more popular overseas models – such as the Outlander – Mr Hidenori remained extremely guarded.

“(Among other things) we (would) have to consider exchange rates and material costs,” he said.

Mr Hidenori believes that Toyota’s success with the Scion range in North America could be the way forward for MMC there also.

“Another bigger manufacturer has produced a kind of small car for the US,” he says.

“And we think that sales of small models will increase now. We have to watch the market in the US.”

In Frankfurt Mitsubishi’s focus – literally and metaphorically – was the release of the Lancer small car range.

The German financial capital also played host to the Concept-cX, a glimpse of a compact urban SUV that could also be derived off the GS platform.

However, as the Concept-cX show car uses the previous Outlander/CG Lancer platform – which is smaller than the GS architecture – it is also just as likely that the next-generation Colt light-car’s underpinnings could start off as the basis for any pending cX production model. Aimed specifically at European buyers enamoured by the likes of the popular Toyota RAV4 but without its newfound size and bulk, a Concept-cX based production car would be about as large as the Suzuki SX4, and similarly positioned in the mid-$20,000 area below the $30,000-plus (in today’s money) Outlander.

If it is given the green light, a late 2009 arrival would be the earliest launch date.

Read more:

First look: ZT could be Mitsu 380 successor

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