With a new corporate structure at the top of the company, Mitsubishi plans to use design to set it apart from Nissan its new corporate partner and parent.
Nissan closed the deal to acquire a controlling 30% stake in Mitsubishi last fall and last month, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn took over as Mitsubishi chairman.
However, while the Nissan and Mitsubishi will share some functions such as purchasing or logistics, the two companies will essentially remain competitors in key markets such as the United States or Japan, said Don Swearingen, Mitsubishi Motors North America executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“People keeping asking if we’re going to go away. We’re not,” added Swearingen during a visit to Detroit ahead of the North American International Auto Show. “We are separate companies and will remain competitors,” said Swearingen, who noted that Mitsubishi sales increased by 1% during 2016 and MMNA expects to sell 100,000 vehicles by the time its fiscal year ends on March 31, 2017.
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Mitsubishi is planning to unveil an all-new crossover at the Geneva Auto Show in early March that will take its place in the Mitsubishi line-up between the Outland and Outlander Sport. The appeal of the Outlander and Outland Sport have been instrumental in helping Mitsubishi increase sales in the U.S. for four consecutive years, Swearingen said, noting the crossover models are critical to the company.
The new crossover is due to reach the U.S in early 2018, Swearingen said. “It will be the best vehicle Mitsubishi has ever produced,” he added.
Kazou Yana, head of design planning at Mitsubishi, said the Japanese automaker is working at design as part of the effort to stand apart from Nissan now that the alliance is complete. In Japan and other markets, Mitsubishi has a reputation for building “robust” vehicles that been carried over from rugged models such as the Montero.
The new design language evolving at Mitsubishi will borrow from the company’s heritage as well as moving to include functionality and beauty, sculpted dynamism, Japanese craftsmanship and offer a sense of what Yana called “augmented possibility.”
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The new design language is already showing up in the concept vehicles such as eX Concept that Mitsubishi displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The ex Concept combined the stylishness of a “shooting brake,” which is a term for a coupé with flowing styling fused with a hatchback car and with lines of a compact SUV.
At the same time, the front end of the eX Concept offered a new interpretation of Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield front design concept found in Mitsubishi’s current product lineup, Yana said.
“We have a very exciting plan to take Mitsubishi Motors to the next the level, and that plan is through crossovers and electrified vehicles,” Swearingen said.
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“The eX Concept redefines the future of the compact SUV and is representative of the company’s design direction, both inside and out. With nearly 50 years’ experience of automotive electrification technology, we have the expertise and know-how to pioneer a new future with next-generation electric vehicles,” he added.