Car tech is a hot topic right now, as auto manufacturers work out that consumers want to use those expensive gadgets everywhere. As a Mitsubishi owner, I was keen to see what’s in store for 2012 for the Japanese auto maker.
I spent today in Canberra where Mitsubishi showcased their 2012 line-up of vehicles. Handing over the keys to their full line-up, I got hands-on with the Evo X, iMiev, Ralliart VRX Hatchback and Pajero. The hills of Canberra affording a great variety of road types and surfaces to put the cars to the test. The most impressive overall is clearly the Evo X, but starting at $62,390 most will never get to enjoy it.
From a technology point of view, the most impressive was the fully electric iMiev. There is no getting used to having no sound emitted from the vehicle, front or back, it’s just plain weird. That fancy iMiev went on sale to public in September, costing around $48,800. After driving both the Evo and the iMiev, I know which one I’d buy (sorry environment).
Mitsubishi have only sold ‘9 or 10’ to actual consumers (hardcore enthusiasts). If EV’s are going to come down in price and reach affordability for the general public, we need more of you enthusiasts to pull out the wallet. The Government and Business have snapped up the other stock. By fiscal year 2015, Mitsubishi will have 8 new electric / hybrid vehicles on the market. I enquired if this was a reaction to customer’s range anxiety, but was told the new models are simply vehicles designed to suit different needs.
To be honest the improvements are minor at best. The 2012 passenger models pickup a rear-facing camera, which appears a screen on the mirror. While a great safety addition, the change isn’t exactly ground breaking, and certainly not innovative.
Unfortunately there’s no massive 17” displays in the dash or fancy (Siri-esc) voice control, just some minor tweaks to interior, exterior and in a lot of cases, increase in prices. When questioned about raising the prices in a very competitive marketing, Mitsubishi say they are comfortable that their features vs price was still a good equation for buyers.
With more than 337,000 sales, the most successful model is the Mitsubishi Lancer, unsurprising given its affordable price tag. Now let me throw some stats at you about the lancer..
- 2010 all time record sales
- More than 80,000 sold.
- Selling more than 1500 per month
- SX Model is being discontinued
- 2012 model has better efficiency / environmentally friendly
- Improved the interior, soft door trims (arm resets)
- Reversing camera (appears in mirror)
- Hands-free phone control (via Bluetooth)
- VR model – adds front corner air damns
Talking about the Australian plant in Adelaide that made the 380, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited, Genichiro Nishina said ‘ the Factory closure was regrettable, particularly as it was profitable.’ If you were wondering why Mitsubishi continue to house their HQ in Adelaide, the reason is simple.. money. The government has provided Mitsubishi a rent-free deal for 10 years, after which Mitsubishi will re-evaluate that location and potentially relocate to Melbourne or Sydney.
With a lot of our technology coming from Asia, we’re not unfamiliar with naturally disasters impacting the launch and availability of our gadgets. The automotive sector is no different, with the devastating Tsunami in Japan not directly effecting Mitsubishi, but did result in component and supplier downtime. Thailand is also experiencing record flooding affecting supplier networks.
Mitsubishi’s 2011 sales figures were down 2.4%, while the whole market is down 3.7% on 2010 figures. 2010 was also an all time record year for Mitsubishi sales.
While I had a great day in Canberra testing the best from Mitsubishi for the next 12+ months, I can’t help but feel let down by the announcement. Companies need to innovating out of problems, not sit on their hands and wait for the economy to correct itself. R&D investments in technology will drive your company forward into the next generation of products or in this case, cars. While it may be expensive, it’s likely deliver features that will give you a competitive advantage. Sadly, Mitsubishi just haven’t.
Mitsubishi vehicles use some of the most impressive handling and safety technology around, but when it comes to enhancing the driver and passenger experience inside, it feels like they are being left behind. Even in the Lancer Evolution, the touchscreen display feels old and clunky by today’s tablet standards. Even if you want to roll your own, the dash no longer allows for 3rd party head units. Please Mitsu, please steal a designer from Apple.
Jason Cartwright attended the Mitsubishi drive day as a guest of Mitsubishi. Flights and lunch were paid for by Mitsubishi.