Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will merge the Diamante full-sized sedan onto the Galant platform when it is redesigned, making it a candidate for U.S. production. But it has not been decided if the name will survive or if it still will be the flagship, executives say.
Steven Torok, Mitsubishi Motors' executive vice president for international car operations, last week confirmed in Tokyo that the U.S.-market Diamante, which is built in Australia, will move onto the Project America platform that was developed for the U.S.-market Galant, Eclipse coupe and Endeavor sport wagon.
Although it is a front-drive platform, Project America can be engineered for all-wheel drive. The platform has a longer wheelbase than the current Galant and Diamante, indicating it could supply the underpinnings of the next Diamante easily. It also means the Diamante could be built at Mitsubishi's plant in Normal, Ill., rather than being imported.
Torok said the decision to continue selling the Diamante in America has not been made, but he added that Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd. must continue exporting a portion of its output to be viable. Exports to the Middle East have been part of Mitsubishi Motors Australia's business, but the United States also has been a critical export market.
The Diamante is set for a 2005 model year redesign in Japan and Australia, and a 2006 model year in the United States.
Brian Pecheles, president of Joe Pecheles Mitsubishi-VW-Audi-Hyundai-Isuzu in Greenville, N.C., says Mitsubishi would be better off deleting the Diamante from its U.S. lineup.
"They've got too many models," Pecheles says. "The Diamante is a nice car, but they don't promote the vehicle. They should concentrate on their core models."
The current Diamante is more than 6 years old and is overdue for replacing. Sales have softened.
In the United States, Diamante sales fell 17 percent last year to 14,352 from 17,227 in 2001, its best sales year since 1994. Sales through April were off 10.2 percent.
In Japan, sales of a locally built Diamante were a mere 2,106 last year, down 41 percent from 3,588 in 2001.
Mitsubishi is not alone in paring back the number of sedan platforms and offerings. Nissan has merged its previously separate Altima and Maxima onto the same architecture. Mazda also deleted the Millenia from its lineup, hoping the new Mazda6 would bridge the price span of the previous Millenia and 626 sedans.