Finally hints of new product for Mitsubishi?

The Concept GR HEV is a diesel hybrid pickup with four-wheel drive capability. The Concept CA-MiEV is a follow to the company's struggling i electric vehicle.
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TOKYO -- Could Mitsubishi Motors Corp., badly hurting for new product in the United States, be priming for a return to pickup trucks as well as its next generation of electric cars?

The Japanese carmaker says it will unveil two concept vehicles along those lines at next month's Geveva motor show.

The first, dubbed the Concept GR HEV, is a diesel hybrid pickup with four-wheel drive capability.

Mitsubishi says the concept's sport utility truck segment is booming in emerging markets. And the hybrid drivetrain will also deliver class-leading fuel economy, the company promises.

This seems most obviously positioned as a vision for its next generation Triton, a compact pickup sold in emerging markets.

A teaser photo shows what looks like the Triton's double cab, with sheet metal much curvier and more futuristic.

But it's tempting to see the GR HEV -- especially with its high-cost hybrid drivetrain -- as a possible successor to the Raider pickup that was discontinued in the U.S. market.

The second vehicle, the Concept CA-MiEV, is a follow to the company's struggling i electric vehicle. U.S. sales of that car, which went on sale there in 2011, have been miserable.

The concept will incorporate next-generation electric vehicle technologies, Mitsubishi says. That includes high-density batteries and a new drivetrain system encompassing a more efficient motor, inverter and regenerative braking system.

It will also employ wireless charging.

With its lightweight, aerodynamic body, the CA-MiEV delivers a cruising range of 300 kilometers (186 miles), Mitsubishi says.

That would be up -- but not significantly -- from the current i, which gets about 180 kilometers (111 miles) on a full charge. But Mitsubishi also needs to solve the question of cabin space and price, in order to get traction from its electric vehicles.

Both concepts showcase the electrified drivetrain technologies Mitsubishi was to rebuild its brand around. And the pickup taps Mitsubishi's expertise in trucks and off-road offerings.

At Geneva, the struggling carmaker is clearly staying on message. But will customers listen?

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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