Hybrids, crossovers key vehicles from Japan

Ryan Beene (left) has just changed from covering Mazda and Mitsubishi in Los Angeles to reporting from Washington.

Diana T. Kurylko has covered Subaru for Automotive News for many years.

While Subaru and Mazda are investing heavily in higher-tech vehicles riding on new or updated platforms over the next several years, Mitsubishi will offer mostly cosmetic changes, with little new product destined for the U.S.

Among the key products coming from Japan's second-tier automakers are the first plug-in hybrid from Subaru; the fourth generation of Mazda's MX-5 Miata roadster, in time for its 25th anniversary; and new or updated crossovers from all three automakers.

Subaru's next wave of vehicles, beginning in 2016, will signal a major shift toward a common platform that will underpin its entire lineup of cars and crossovers, while Mazda will start shifting to a next-generation platform in 2018.

Mitsubishi, for its part, is reserving its most substantial updates for its crossovers, capitalizing on a fast-growing segment where it occupies the low end of the price spectrum. But U.S. customers will have to wait at least a year for a plug-in hybrid crossover that has been selling briskly overseas.

A void opens in Mitsubishi's car lineup with the loss of the high-performance Lancer Evolution series, a tuner cult favorite that will have its last hurrah next year. Mitsubishi still is negotiating with Renault for help with filling its other gaping hole: the lack of a midsize sedan. 

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