Mitsubishi Seeks to Strengthen SUV Credentials With New Model

  • Automaker to unveil Eclipse Cross model at Geneva auto show
  • Will ship new SUV to Europe in last quarter of this year

A Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Eclipse Cross sports utility vehicle on display at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will unveil a sport utility vehicle that will debut in Europe, its first new model since joining the Renault-Nissan alliance, as Chairman Carlos Ghosn strengthens the Japanese company’s credentials as an SUV brand.

The Eclipse Cross compact SUV coupe to be revealed at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday will be shipped to its second-biggest market in the last quarter and subsequently roll out in Japan, North America and other regions, Mitsubishi said in a statement. The 4.4 meter-long car will be the brand’s latest globally available crossover, competing with Renault SA’s Kadjar, Nissan Motor Co.’s Qashqai and Volkswagen AG’s Tiguan.

The Japanese automaker is expanding its lineup of SUVs to tap a segment that accounts for about a quarter of the global auto market and is growing at a faster pace than sedans. Mitsubishi said the new model is the first of a new generation of vehicles that will enable the automaker in “gradually re-establishing and re-positioning” the brand as a pure SUV player in Europe.

Mitsubishi’s product offensive is starting from Europe where its deliveries have declined and market share shrunk. Eclipse Cross will join the automaker’s ASX and Outlander crossovers as it looks to win new customers.

Sales in the region fell 16 percent to 132,000 units in the nine months through December, shrinking its market share in Europe to 0.7 percent in 2016, according to the company and European Automobile Manufacturers Association data. Deliveries in Asia excluding Japan, its biggest market, dropped 5.4 percent to 229,000 vehicles.

The Eclipse Cross, which takes its name from Mitsubishi’s sports car built in the U.S. between 1989 and 2012, will have both 1.5-liter direct injection turbo-charged gasoline and 2.2-liter diesel engine options.

The company’s strategy to focus on SUVs comes after Nissan acquired a 34 percent stake following a months-long fuel-rating cheating scandal. Last month, Ghosn, who took over as the chairman of Mitsubishi in December, relinquished his role as Nissan’s chief executive officer to focus on strengthening the carmaker’s alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi that combined sold almost 10 million vehicles in 2016.

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