MITSUBISHI Motors will notch up a record-breaking 32,000 new vehicle sales this year – not bad for a car company that has not seen a new model for three years.
Even more remarkable with the ageing Galant discontinued earlier this year and Carisma models coming to the end of their production life next year.
But help has come from a most unlikely source, the L200 pick-up, which has become the country’s number one ‘truck’ with 12,000 sales. "It has done really well for us," said sales and marketing chief Lance Bradley.
"We identified a niche, got the pricing right and the L200 has really worked for us," he added.
The one black spot on the horizon is a plan by the government to close the tax advantage enjoyed by pick-ups as commercial vehicles.
The Chancellor has looked at rising sales and there is a perception that, like the United States, people are buying them for pleasure rather than business.
"We don’t think that is generally the case," added Bradley. "Most L200 buyers are small businessmen and although pick-ups may also be fun, you do not really want to be pounding up and down motorways in them.
"They are trucks – and we even sent one along to the Treasury for them to take a look for themselves. We are confident that any tax penalty will be moderate."
Like the parent company in Japan, now under the wing of DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi in the UK has been through a lot of re-organisation in its business. Bradley said: "We have looked at all our models, persuaded Japan to bring pricing down to sensible figures and reviewed how we can work with the dealers to sell more cars more profitably."
Reinforcements are on the way starting with the Outlander crossover vehicle – an estate car/4x4 sports utility – which goes on sale January 1. Prices start at £16,000 rising to £18,749 with three levels of specification and just one engine, a 2.4-litre petrol.
Outlander has not been engineered to take a diesel but a bi-fuel LPG model will be available later in the year priced at £1,000 more than the petrol vehicles.
This will be followed by the Grandis MPV in June and, most important, the new Colt hatchback from September.
"Colt will be a very important car for us, giving us a vehicle in the highly competitive small car segment," said Bradley. "Important as well in terms of increasing our sales in the UK even more."
Although he said he did not like setting targets, he believed sales of 50,000 cars in year by 2007 were possible.Published 4 December 2003