GCPHEV concept basis for next Montero

GC-PHEV concept basis for next Montero.

Mitsubishi Plans Cautious Product Push in U.S.

In addition to a new-gen Montero based on its Chicago concept vehicle, the brand plans a Mirage sedan and Outlander plug-in, and is discussing joint-venture deals with Renault and other automakers.

CHICAGO – “The best is yet to come,” boasts Mitsubishi Motors Executive Vice President Don Swearingen during the unveiling of the automaker’s GC-PHEV concept at the auto show here.

“We’re here to stay, and our growing sales prove that,” he says in introducing a concept of what will be the next-generation Montero, a vehicle expected to arrive in a couple of years.

“In the next 16 months, we are going to reface all of our cars, as well as bring out the Mirage G4 sedan (companion to the hatchback) and the Outlander plug-in hybrid,” Swearingen says.

“When spring blossoms we’ll introduce something else at the New York auto show,” he adds, referring to the production version of a redesigned Outlander CUV that will reveal the new “face” of future Mitsubishi vehicles.

In an interview, Swearingen tells WardsAuto that while talks with Renault over a joint venture to give Mitsubishi a replacement for its midsize Galant sedan ended nearly two weeks ago, discussions with other automakers about potential joint ventures have started.

“We are talking with others, multiple partners, but we’re not saying with who,” he says. “With Renault we talked about a D-segment replacement for Galant as well as a C-segment replacement for Lancer. Now we are talking only about a C-segment car.

“It’s not that we aren’t interested in a D-segment or that it’s not important. It’s a huge market,” Swearingen says. “But to be competitive in that segment would take higher volume and a greater investment, while trying to be profitable.”

Asked if the talks involved potential production at Mitsubishi’s Normal, IL, facility, the executive says, “We’re not saying who would build it, where it would be built, what would be built or when it would be built. All the options are open right now.”

Mitsubishi needs to be cautious about what vehicles it sells in the U.S., Swearingen says.

“We will be profitable in our fiscal year 2014 ending in March, but with the high cost of R&D on a new vehicle, we can’t afford to miss. We’re studying the product now.”

As for the future Montero plug-in hybrid, the Mitsubishi executive says it will operate in gas-only, battery-only and gas/battery modes.

“If in battery-only mode, once the battery power is drained, it would automatically switch to gas and an onboard generator would start to recharge the batteries while you drove. Once the batteries were recharged, it would switch back to battery-only mode.”

The concept comes with four individual swiveling captain’s chairs. Swearingen says to expect a more functional and realistic three rows of seats in the production model.

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