Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will continue to focus on the crossover market in the U.S., while cutting out the Lancer compact sedan, a former mainstay in the brand’s lineup, Mitsubishi executives said at a media gathering Thursday evening ahead of the Detroit auto show.
Mitsubishi won’t have a presence at the 2017 show. It hasn’t been part of the Detroit show since the Great Recession.
Don Swearingen, executive vice president at Mitsubishi Motors North America, told reporters that Lancer production will end in August.
In an overall weak car market, Mitsubishi sold just 14,304 Lancers in the U.S. last year, a decline of 19 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The high-performance -- and to many, iconic -- Lancer Evolution, was discontinued in 2015.
While the Lancer is being shown the door, crossovers will continue to carry Mitsubishi in the U.S.
The Outlander Sport leads the way with U.S. sales of 33,067 units in 2016, down 11 percent, followed by the Outlander, with U.S. deliveries of 26,576, or a gain of 40 percent, in 2016. The two crossovers accounted for 65 percent of the brand’s U.S. sales last year.
Overall, Mitsubishi’s U.S. sales edged up 1 percent for the year, to 96,267. It was the fourth straight year of sales gains for the brand.
The Outlander and Outlander Sport will be freshened for the 2018 model year. The Outlander is set to receive more safety features at a lower price point, while the Outlander Sport will get enhancements to the “dynamic shield” front-end design styling of the vehicle.
Mitsubishi will also be introducing an all-new compact crossover at the beginning of 2018, Swearingen said.
Swearingen added that the unnamed vehicle, which has been spotted by spy photographers, will feature a turbocharged engine and will be equipped with user friendly technology, including head-up display. “Frankly, in my opinion from test driving the new vehicle, it will be the best vehicle Mitsubishi has ever produced,” Swearingen said.
To fit the new crossover into the brand’s U.S. lineup, Swearingen said the Outlander will get a little bigger in width and length, while the Outlander Sport will get a little smaller. The new crossover will fit between the existing nameplates.
Swearingen also touched on Mitsubishi’s recent alliance with Nissan Motor Co. and Renault, making it clear that the automakers will remain competitive on the product front.
“They’re bringing a lot of good things into the Mitsubishi culture and I think they will help us to grow together,” Swearingen said. “But the key is to find synergies that will help not only us, but Nissan, with reducing costs, using common parts and looking at platforms we could use together.
“We’re still competitors. So at the end of the day, even if we share a platform, it has to have a unique style and for us that’s going to be the dynamic shield.”
Effective Oct. 20, Nissan took a controlling 33.4 percent stake in Mitsubishi. In December, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn became Mitsubishi’s chairman.
In December, the Japan’s Nikkei daily newspaper reported that Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors will combine their electric vehicle platforms to help bring costs and prices down to levels comparable to conventional gasoline cars.
The Nikkei said Renault and Mitsubishi will use the same vehicle platform that will undergird Nissan’s remodeled Leaf electric car, expected to go on sale around 2018.
However, when asked about the report, Swearigen declined to confirm it.
“No, were not confirming that at all,” Swearigen told Automotive News. “We’ve heard the same thing but clearly we think there should and could be opportunities for Nissan with our plug-in hybrid and for Mitsubishi with their electric vehicle.”
Ursula Zerilli and Reuters contributed to this report.