Auto blogMon, 16 Dec 2013 11:29:00 EST
Mention the name Mitsubishi to different people and you'll likely get two startling different images. Environmentalists will focus on the company's strides in developing EVs, while performance enthusiasts will point you toward the Lancer Evolution. The prevailing wisdom was that Mitsubishi would cancel the latter to concentrate on the former, but the latest intel suggests that the two will be reconciled with a new Evo around the corner.
Although Mitsubishi is reportedly working to streamline its lineup from 23 models on 12 different platforms to 13 models on 7 by 2016, the next Evo will stand as an exception. Like Subaru did with the formerly Impreza-based WRX (or for that matter Nissan with the formerly Skyline-based GT-R), the new Evo won't have anything to do with the next Lancer, which itself will be based on a Renault-Nissan platform.
On that unique platform, Mitsubishi is likely to install a small direct-injection turbo engine (potentially a diesel) that could be based on the 1.1-liter, three-cylinder turbo engine in the XR-PHEV concept we saw in Tokyo, supplemented by small electric motors with lightweight batteries and driving all four wheels through an enhanced version of the company's Super All-Wheel Control system. As to whether the Evo name will carry over, that remains to be seen, but if these reports prove accurate, its spirit could very much live on.
Mitsubishi has lost money in its North America operations every year since 2007, but in an interview at this week's Tokyo Motor Show, company president Osamu Masuko said, "If things keep going well, it might be the case that we break even this year," Automotive News reports.
A little context: Last month Mitsubishi predicted that it would lower its operating loss in the region to 4-billion yen ($40.7 million) by March 31, the end of the fiscal year, well below the previous fiscal year's operating loss of more than five times that amount. Reflecting that, production at the Japanese automaker's sole North American factory in Normal, Illinois, has grown to 56,630 vehicles through October, compared to 27,339 through the same period last year.
The plant makes the Outlander Sport for the US and for export to markets such as Russia, the Middle East and Latin America. Interestingly, out of the 56,630 Outlander Sports built at the Illinois plant through October, only 20,150 were sold in the US.
We take it for granted that women can enter just about any career they want now. But there are still countless occupations where females are underrepresented. You don't see too many women truckers, for example - particularly in a country that's still as deeply traditional as Japan. But Mitsubishi Fuso is showing just how forward thinking - and simultaneously, how traditional (pink polka dots are a bit 'on the nose') it can be with this hybrid pink truck.
Now for those unfamiliar, the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation has nothing to do with Mitsubishi the car company these days. Instead, it's owned by Daimler, which we know best as the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. Yet Daimler also owns a number of truck and bus manufacturers - among them Freightliner, Thomas Built and Mitsubishi Fuso. One of latter's most popular products is the Canter, the model seen here coated in the shade of Pepto pink at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The point? To make truck driving more attractive to women, of course! We're not sure it'll catch on, but apart from the color scheme - which extends, incidentally, from the cab to the box and inside the cabin - this particular Canter (which Fuso has dubbed Canna) features a hybrid powertrain that produces 130 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, paired to a 7.5Ah lithium-ion battery good for 270 volts. The whole package weighs 6,250 pounds and can carry three Japanese school girls dressed up as Sailor Moon in the front and plenty of Hello Kitty merchandise in the back.
Just take one look at Mitsubishi's latest vehicles, both concept and production, and it's obvious that fuel economy - not performance - reigns supreme. With this in mind, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Caradvice.com.au is suggesting that Mitsubishi is putting development of future performance models (like the 2013 Lancer Evolution GSR shown above) on hold as the company focuses on electric and plug-in vehicles.
In speaking with Mitsubishi managing director of product projects Ryugo Nakao at the Tokyo Motor Show, the publication says that the entire Lancer redesign is on hold, meaning that the aging Lancer Evo and Ralliart will have to contend with fresh performance models like the Volkswagen GTI and Subaru WRX. That being said, the article doesn't completely shut the door on another Evo - in fact, it goes on to indicate that when a new generation does hit the streets, it will almost certainly do so with some sort of electric-assisted powertrain, an oft-repeated rumor that got its legs as early as 2010.
Mitsubishi enjoys a long history of thinking outside the literal box when it comes to designing minivans and people movers. Remember the Mitsubishi Van, a.k.a. Delica? How about the Chariot, better known to us as the Colt Vista? The Expo and Expo LRV, the twin models that succeeded it? These were all left-of-center takes on the MPV genre, and while they never sold in large volumes, we can't help but look back at them with a mix of bemusement and respect for their oddball character. Who knows? A production version of this AR Concept could be next.
According to Mitsubishi, "the comfort of a minivan and active personality of an SUV are merged at the highest levels" in the Concept AR. Us? We just think this mild hybrid concept looks kind of neat, even if it's just putting on off-road airs with its elevated ride hight, faux skid plates and black-lipped wheel wells.
Hardware-wise, this Active Runabout is less showcar and more 'real world,' with the front wheels drawing their power from a 134-horsepower, 1.1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine paired with a 10-kW electric motor used as a belt starter generator (read: mild hybrid). A continuously variable transmission handles shifting duties.
In desperate need of some competitive new products, Mitsubishi showed up at the Tokyo Motor Show with three concept vehicles. The most important of them might just be this fullsize Concept GC-PHEV (Grand Cruiser). With its full-time four-wheel-drive system and roughly the right package size, we can only hope it hints at a future design for the Pajero/Montero.
Longer, taller and wider than the current Pajero (which is still offered in other markets), the Concept GC-PHEV is a big SUV with a fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid powertrain. A 335-horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission are paired with a 94-hp electric motor and high-capacity battery to provide some serious brawn in a green wrapper. The result is targeted fuel consumption of 15 kilometers/liter on the Japanese cycle (around 35 miles per gallon) to go with an all-electric driving range of more than 25 miles.
Mitsubishi's styling team has arguably done a much better job with this Tokyo trio than we've seen from recent new products like the Outlander and Mirage, possibly suggesting a future design language for the automaker. In true concept car fashion, the design is Concept GC-PHEV is over the top, but it's not hard to imagine a vehicle of this size with similar cues gracing the Mitsubishi lineup at some point in the near future. Likewise, while the concept's interior only seats four, the sheer size of this vehicle could easily allow three rows of seats for a production model.
Mitsubishi's current Outlander Sport has done a yeoman's job since it came on the market for the 2011 model year. The affordable crossover has been one of the few bright spots in the perennially troubled automaker's lineup - it's the brand's best seller in the US and sales are up nearly 40 percent this year. The subcompact CUV has become an increasingly important part of the Mitsubishi lineup, which is why you should pay attention to this XR-PHEV Concept - it's said to presage the next-generation model.
Stylistically, this is a pretty bold little CUV, with a striking face framed by bold zig-zags of chrome that underline the narrow headlamps and frame the massive lower fascia. The profile has a dramatically tapered greenhouse with bold sheetmetal contours and a funky blacked-out A-pillar that emphasizes the hood's height. The rear end is no less dramatic, with dual-pane rear tailgate with a particularly fast rake.
As shown here, the XR-PHEV (pronounced "Cross Runner") is a four-seat CUV that motivates its front wheels through a turbocharged 1.1-liter, three-cylinder engine with 134 horsepower paired with a 120-kW electric motor. In pure-electric mode, the 14-kWh battery is said to be good for 52 miles of cruising range and the combined fuel economy bogey is 66 miles per gallon on Japan's lenient testing cycle.
Episode #357 of the Autoblog podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth and Jeff Ross are joined by Jeff Glucker of Hooniverse.com. Topics include the SEMA Show, the Cadillac CTS being named the Motor Trend Car of the Year, Mitsubishi's near-term plans and the 2015 Subaru WRX. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. You can follow along after the jump with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #357:
We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #357 tonight, joined by Jeff Glucker of the Hooniverse Podcast. You can check out the topics below, drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module, and don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #357
Struggling automaker Mitsubishi seems adamant that it will soldier on across the globe. Just last week, we told you how the brand would begin selling a pair of rebadged, Korean-built, Renault-Samsung sedans in the US market, and now comes an official statement from Mitsubishi about a mid-term business plan called "New Stage 2016."
As part of the plan, a number of products not sold in the US, like the Triton pickup, Pajero Sport SUV and Delica D:5 will be new or significantly updated, while we'll be seeing a second-generation Outlander Sport within the next few years. Some of these new or updated models may be previewed at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. There will also be an increased focus on the brand's plug-in hybrid technology.
In fact, that technology will play a big role in Mitsubishi's revitalization, as it rolls out its own competitor to Honda's Earth Dreams and Mazda's Skyactiv technology, called @earth Technology (yes, seriously). It's unclear if @earth Technology will develop into an overarching philosophy like Mazda has done with Skyactiv, but with Mitsubishi pushing so hard with hybrids and EVs - part of its deal for those Renault-Samsung sedans was that it would develop EV tech with Nissan-Renault - if we did see an @earth Technology badge on a car, we'd wager that it'd be powered, to some degree, by electricity.