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Mitsubishi commits to passenger cars

Staying on: Despite slowing sales, Mitsubishi will stick with the Mirage hatch, and the company might even give it a marketing boost when Lancer stock dries up.

Mirage to step up when Mitsubishi runs out of Lancer stock later this year

31 Jan 2018

MITSUBISHI says it is not walking away from passenger cars in Australia, despite the line-up shrinking to just one non-SUV or pick-up offering by the end of this year.

The ageing Lancer small sedan and hatchback range are on borrowed time, with Japanese production finishing up last year and Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) confirming it has enough stock to see it out until the end of 2018.

Once the Lancer has sold out, the tiny Mirage micro hatch will be the sole passenger car model in the line-up, after the Mirage sedan was discontinued in late 2016 due to slow sales.

MMAL president and CEO John Signoriello told GoAuto that the company was committed to the Mirage and suggested that it might get more of a marketing push when all Lancer stock is sold out.

“It (Mirage) is in our long-term plan,” he said at the Eclipse Cross launch in Hobart last week. “There are no plans to get rid of Mirage. It is the only vehicle we have got in that passenger space. 35 per cent of the market is still passenger. It is just not our focus.

“It’s not one of our core products, but in saying that, it chugs along. It is another good reliable car. Maybe when Lancer stock depletes we might put a bigger focus on it. At this stage it is definitely in the longer-term plans.”

As GoAuto reported in April last year, Mitsubishi is expected to offer a next-generation version of the Mirage, although timing is unclear.

While Mitsubishi may give the Mirage more exposure following the demise of the Lancer, it is unlikely to reach the same sales highs as the 10-year-old small sedan and hatch.

After the re-born Mirage was launched in late 2012, it went on to record sales of 9549 units in 2013, before it dipped 32 per cent to 6478 in 2014.

Sales dropped a further 40 per cent to 3882 in 2015, while in 2016 – the year the mid-life facelift arrived – registrations slid by 21 per cent to 3064.

In 2017, sales nearly halved, dropping 49 per cent to 1563 units against stiff competition from the Kia Picanto that captured a 46.5 per cent share of the segment in its first full year on sale.

Even in its 10th year on the market, the Lancer found 7560 homes last year and outsold much newer fare including the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.

The Japanese car-maker detailed its plans to focus on SUVs and light-commercial vehicles at the 2013 Tokyo motor show, but since then it has been taken over by the Renault-Nissan Alliance which the company says would likely open up opportunities in the passenger space.

Despite the focus on LCVs, MMAL currently only offers one model in that space, the Triton pick-up, by Mr Signoriello said that the company was investigating other models that could come from within the wider Renault-Nissan Alliance.

“We are always looking at different alternatives and we are always looking at, are there products within the alliance that we can make work within Australia.

It is business case related, it is sourcing, exchange rate, landing costs.

“Obviously we have the (dealer) network, so that is not an issue, it is just really getting it to Australia that makes it a viable business case. And creating enough differentiation to make it Mitsubishi.”

Mr Signoriello was coy on if there was a new LCV offering on the horizon, saying: “We are always working on little things.”

While it is unclear what form a new Mitsubishi LCV could take, the Renault-Nissan Alliance 2022 business plan that was announced in September last year made mention of model sharing between alliance brand LCVs.

The next-gen Triton and Nissan Navara are expected to share underpinnings, but little is known about the alliance LCV strategy beyond this.

Mitsubishi sold the Express van in Australia from 1984 until it was discontinued in 2013.

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