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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Starion still on Australian executives' wish list

As much as those at Mitsubishi miss the Lancer and Starion the attention has been turned to SUVs.

Mitsubishi has decided to now only make and sell SUVs and utes, but that doesn’t mean a return of the Lancer, Starion or a new sports car isn’t off their wish list, a company senior executive has revealed.

In November, the Mitsubishi Mirage will disappear from local showrooms after a new strict Australia Design Rule (ADR 85) deemed its side impact safety now insufficient. The axing of the Mirage, however, marks the beginning of a new SUV-and-ute-only era for Mitsubishi

Speaking at the launch of the new Outlander, Mitsubishi’s general manager of marketing and product strategy Oliver Mann said the discontinuation of passenger cars has been part of the plan for years.

“We made the move to focus on SUVs and pick-ups some time ago and it proved to the right move,” Mr Mann said.

The transition to an SUV-and-ute only business in Australia makes sense. Year-to-date sales of SUVs alone outnumber those of passenger car sales almost four-to-one with 416,275 SUVs sold compared to 174,276 passenger cars up to the end of September.

That said there’s still an appetite for performance cars such as the Subaru WRX, Golf GTI and Hyundai i30N. And with that, is there any chance we could see a new-generation Lancer Evolution or even the return of the Starion to take on the 2022 Subaru WRX or Toyota’s incoming 86? Possible, but not likely right now is the answer.

“We’re always looking at market opportunities and that’s usually my standard response. But seriously, anything like this still has to stack up as a business case, and the reality is those types of vehicles are very small segments and our focus at the moment is to concentrate on the segments where the volume is,” Mr Mann said.

And then just when you think there’s no chance of seeing these icons return Mr Mann left us with a line like this: “I guess the best thing to say is there’s still a passion for certain types of vehicles with certain people at head office. Whether it comes to fruition is another story completely.” 

And while it might seem far-fetched that a relative small brand like Mitsubishi could come up with the resources to resurrect niche models like the Lancer Evo and Starion, keep in mind it is part of an alliance with Nissan and Renault, with the three brand's often sharing parts, platforms and production.

For the Starion coupe, Mitsubishi could leverage its partner Nissan's upcoming Z sports car, which utilises a 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 to deliver 285kW/475Nm to the rear wheels.

But what about the Lancer? At one point, there were rumours that Mitsubishi could use the Renault Megane's platform to deliver a new small car, with the hi-po Megane RS forming the basis for another Evolution flagship.

However, after a few years, nothing has eventuated, and it looks like the Megane nameplate is being shifted to focus on electric drivetrains and an SUV body style with the E-Tech revealed earlier this year.

But what do you think, are SUVs and utes the right play for Mitsubishi Australia? Or should it be taking more risks with niche models?