It’s a different world. Not only are the Japanese ultra-polite, they are more reserved than the tables at the Boxwood Café. However, Mitsubishi Motors is turning un-Japanese – its very survival depends on it.
Previously an executive would have committed hari kari rather than divulge the merest snippet about a forthcoming new model. Now the company is flashing sneak previews of the Lancer Evo X on giant screens at press conferences.
Boy, is it different. Swooping roofline and coupe-like glasshouse, and a face that will rattle cattle. This hero model has been rushed forward to mid-2006, as Mitsubishi seeks to revive its flagging brand. The basic Lancer will hit the UK around then, filling the gap left by the Carisma (RIP).
Under the skin is all-new front- and all-wheel drive platform, co-developed with Chrysler. Expect a broad range of fourpot petrol engines, as well as the trademark 2.0-litre in naturally aspirated and turbo guise for the Evo. The nose accommodates V6s too, and the 135bhp 2.0-litre TDi bought in from VW.
The first outing for this platform, codenamed GS, will be under the all-new Space Star mini-MPV in late 2005. GS will also underpin the Airtrek/Outlander Mk II.
Mitsubishi is promising 10 new cars in Europe between April 2004 and 2007. The haul includes the familiar Grandis MPV, the three-door Colt CZ3 and very probably a Colt 2+2 convertible. And bosses know replacing the iconic Shogun is crucial, too, so we can expect a new 4x4 around 2007, heavily influenced by the Pajero Evo concept.
So, as executives unusually admit: “We have a pipeline full of cars.” Will Mitsubishi survive to turn on the tap? Don’t bet against it. Another Japanese trait – pride – should see to that.