Even so, Gagnon said, the car is crucial if Mitsubishi hopes to remain a mainstream automaker in this country, and if it hopes to expand its customer base to more families and more mature customers.
"It keeps us right at the heart of the car market," he said.
The 2004 model, which goes on sale in October, is the first Galant designed, engineered and built for the U.S. market. Bigger all around and more powerful than its predecessor, it is the second vehicle off Mitsubishi's Project America platform, which also will include some Chrysler group vehicles.
The car is 2.8 inches longer, 3.9 inches wider and 2.2 inches taller than its predecessor. At 108.3 inches, the wheelbase is 4.6 inches longer than the current model.
The base model comes with Mitsubishi's new 2.4-liter MIVEC (for Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control) engine, mated with a four-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel disc brakes. The new engine was designed to improve power over a wide rpm range without sacrificing fuel economy.
It makes 160 hp at 5,500 rpm and 157 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, up from 140 hp and 155 pounds-feet of torque in the current model.
The optional 3.8-liter V-6 produces 230 hp, up from 195 hp in the '03 model.
Standard features include remote keyless entry with trunk opener, power windows, lock and mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat, 140-watt, four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system, dual front airbags and child safety locks.
"The market has moved up in the mid-sized category," Gagnon said. "In order to compete, we had to be bigger, better and faster."