LOS ANGELES – Mitsubishi says it is in the U.S. market for the long haul as it unveils a new plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle concept at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show.
“Our sales are up, we’re profitable and we’re growing,” Don Swearingen, executive vice president-Mitsubishi Motors North America tells media here.
Mitsubishi deliveries in the U.S. have risen 29.8% through October to 64,564 units, making it one of the fastest-growing brands of 2014.
The gain largely is due to the Outlander Sport CUV, up 24.8% and accounting for nearly a third (25,620) of the brand’s volume in the first 10 months.
The concept shown here, the XR PHEV, has design language that will appear on ’16 Mitsubishi CUVs, including a production model debuting at the 2015 New York auto show, which may or may not be the next Outlander Sport CUV.
The next-generation Outlander and an unnamed future Mitsubishi CUV, rumored to be a fullsize CUV, also will wear the XR PHEV’s styling.
Electrification is a key focal point for the brand going forward, with Swearingen telling WardsAuto the discontinued Lancer EVO performance compact will be replaced with something electrified.
Discontinuing the current EVO doesn’t mean the name is gone forever, he says. “But we clearly need to distinguish our future direction, and our future direction is PHEV.
“We believe it can deliver better performance,” Swearingen says of the future electrified performance car. “It’ll be different, but better, as we move forward with that type of vehicle (in our lineup).”
Swearingen says the record-setting run of a modified, 603-hp Mitsubishi i MiEV with four electric motors at Pikes Peak this past summer is proof for those who doubt the performance possibilities of the future EVO replacement.
The i MiEV covered 12.4 miles (20 km) in 9:08:188.
While it did away with many of its models a few years ago, including the Eclipse sports car and Galant midsize sedan, Mitsubishi in the next year will be in build-up mode, adding a sedan version of the Mirage subcompact.
The PHEV version of the Outlander, already on sale in Europe, is due in the U.S. in 2015.
When asked if Mitsubishi must sell at least 100,000 vehicles annually to make a good business case for its dealers, Swearingen says the brand wants to go beyond that mark.
“Clearly we can get profitable, and most car dealers can get profitable, at our current level, but we want to make them strong. And to make dealers strong, we need to provide more product and higher volumes, so that’s our goal.”
Mitsubishi having a Japanese executive, Gayu Uesugi, as North American chairman, is beneficial, Swearingen says, because it helps pull engineering, production and sales “together as one team.
“We all work together, and we succeed together, or we fail together. And we’re on the path to succeed together.”