It appears Mitsubishi are in no rush to bring out a new Lancer to replace the current 8-year old model. They have halted all development on sedans indefinitely. Previously it had been reported Mitsubishi were in talks with Renault-Nissan to share platforms for new sedans to replace the Lancer and Galant. Now those talks have ended as both parties could not see the alliance profiting both sides equally.
So, any development of new Mitsubishi sedans has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Instead the company have said they will focus their resources on profitable SUVs, PHEVs and EVs. This also backs up reports suggesting the next Evo won’t be the same Evo sedan that we’ve come to know and love. Instead it’ll be a plug-in hybrid SUV with “vast power reserves”.
There is method behind what some might see as madness in Mitsubishi’s thinking. Evo aside, the trend for most mainstream family cars these days are crossovery things such as Mitsubishi’s own ASX, the Nissan Qashqai, and Mazda CX-5. Other motoring trends such as tail fins, pop up headlights, and carburettors have become appendixes in the history books. The family sedan could be the next to follow.
Sedans all together won’t die out anytime soon; they’re still the shape of choice for luxury cars and taxis. But there will be less of them in the mainstream; when was the last time you saw a Mazda3 Sedan? I also can’t see any masters of the universe swapping their Mercedes S-Class for a Toyota Highlander anytime soon either. However, brands famous for their sedans such as Bentley and Rolls Royce are now venturing out to SUV territory.
If you look at the sales figures from the Motor Industry Association of New Zealand for example, 29% of all car sales in 2014 were made up of SUVs. That’s a staggering 37,013 new SUVs finding homes in NZ in 2014. The next best selling category were utes. Half of the cars in the Top 10 best selling cars in NZ for 2014 were crossovers/SUVs. It’s the same story for most other markets around the world. More and more people are switching over to high-riding crossovers and SUVs for that extra sense of protection and practicality. That and the one-upmanship one gets from sitting higher up than other motorists.
One thing for certain, you don’t buy an SUV for the ‘sports’ bit. That probably sums up the fall of the sedan. Us car enthusiasts make up a small portion of car sales, we’re but a drop in a much larger sea. We know a sedan or a wagon will be better to drive. Not only do they weigh less but the centre of gravity is much lower which makes for better handling characteristics. But other people don’t know this. The majority of the car buying public care as much about Ferrari’s e-diff than I do about E! News. Instead these people see Hollywood celebrities in their G-Class Mercedes and matte black Range Rovers and think “yes, I’d like a bit of that lifestyle” then go out and buy a Holden Captiva. Okay, that’s a gross generalisation but you get the point.
We may or may not mourn the loss of a new Lancer but we should be worried about the larger effects Mitsubishi’s decision could have on the car market as a whole. We know SUVs are the go-to car shape if you want to make lots of profits. Porsche sells more Cayennes and Macans than they do 911s, Boxsters, and Caymans. But ibecause they sell more SUvs that they are able to continue making their famous sports cars. Which is exactly why Jaguar, Maserati, and Bentley want in on the SUV action.
Jeep, Land Rover, and Isuzu make nothing but crossovers and SUVs and they’re doing fine. Better than the likes of Saab, Pontiac, and Rover who’ve all bitten the dust. Yes, the car industry is a business first and foremost and companies need to keep shareholders happy by bringing in nice big profits. But there should also be some room to keep enthusiasts happy too. Mitsubishi has been in need of a new sports car and Evo sedan for quite some time. If Honda, Mazda, and Toyota are able to make exciting cars alongside mass-produced profit-makers then why can’t Mitsubishi? It’s not like they’re short of cash; the Mitsubishi Group is one of the largest companies in Japan.
It does seem like Mitsubishi Motors have thrown in the towel. It’s as if they’re saying they know they’re not competitive in the small and medium sized market anymore so they’re cutting their losses. But you know what, I think Mitsubishi will be fine without a new Lancer. Hell, they’re still going to continue selling the 8-year old model for a while. They’ll probably keep making it even after the “next” Mayan apocalypse. For reference, the Mitsubishi ASX was the 10th best selling car in New Zealand as of February 2015.
What do you all think about Mitsubishi’s product strategy? Have they made the right choice in halting development of sedans, perhaps this will be the trend in the next few years. Who knows, maybe other manufacturers might jump on the bandwagon (or should that be bandSUV?) and stop making sedans and wagons all together. Or have they completely lost their control of all their senses and need to gives us a new Lancer and Evo with four doors and a massive wing? Hell I’ll even settle for an Evo hatchback.