Goodbye Mitsubishi Lancer

3 Feb 2017

Mitsubishi will not continue it’s compact sedan, the Lancer. Facing weakening demand globally for sedans, the manufacturer has decided to retire the Lancer moniker (for now). Focus instead would be placed on their SUV and Crossover range, especially for the North American market. 

The popular compact sedan has been one of the most seen-on-the roads since the mid-70s, producing sensible point A to B cars, and also created at that time, their crazy over the top Lancer EX 2000 Turbo, which predated their Evolution series of cars. So successful was the Lancer nameplate in the early 80s, that Mitsubishi even sold a Colt based model alongside the ‘real’ Lancer, called the Lancer F.

Back then, the auto manufacturer carried the distinction of producing technological innovations, like their Silent Shaft Technology, which worked on counterbalance shafts which cancelled vibrations, creating a smoother drive for four cylinder engines, technology which even found its way into the Porsche 924. Their “8-speed” and 2 reverse gear ratio-ed Supershift transmission (although not featured in the Lancer, but I had to mention it here) had proven to be interesting, yet almost confusing to use back in the day (Hey! I can reverse faster than you can! *Me Gusta*).

In the late 80s the Lancer was one of the first compact sedans to feature a fuel injected engine, by way of their Lancer 1.5 GLXi, and Lancer GTi.16. Variable Valve Timing also became the norm, and the Lancer was quick to field their version, the MIVEC in some of their cars.

So reliable they were, the Lancer platform was utilised by Malaysia’s national car effort, Proton, for their first and second generation compact sedans, the Saga and Wira.

Every generation also featured a hot lancer of some sort, and somewhere in the mix in the later years, the Evolution series of rally inspired cars were born; cars producing legendary supercar equivalent performance, within an econobox footprint, solidifying its cult car status, with its man-in-the-street reachability. At the same time, the Evolution cars left their mark at the WRC. The Ralliart built cars won the Constructors Title at their peak, back in 1998, with the Evolution IV and V models. 

Their Group N production cars had also proven themselves to be formidable competition, with near standard factory built Lancer Evolutions winning seven consecutive titles across 1995 to 2001. It is no wonder that the Evolution has had such a strong following, inspiring many vanilla Lancer owners here to plant Ralliart stickers with pride on their cars.

Over in Singapore, with its approximately half-million private cars, sedans have been seen as the traditional main staple of a ‘proper’ car. While the Lancer is still somewhat highly popular, and sitting in a market segment similar to the likes of the Toyota Corolla Altis, Volkswagen Jetta and the newly launched Honda Civic, Mitsubishi has been plodding along ever since with the same Lancer model, but with different engine and transmission combinations, while nose and tail styling has been kept afresh, as best as they can.

In 2008, the current car reached our shores with a 1.5 litre or 2.0, both mated to a CVT transmission. More recently, we saw the introduction of their proven 1.6 litre power plant, mated to their 4-speed INVECS II transmission, which first made its appearance in the 1997 model.

As the years plied on, the Lancer did begin to show its age, especially when the competition in some cases, have churned out three models, or at least, have gone through several face lifts, and now have eventually introduced a model change. In 2017, the Lancer soldiers on likely for one final year.

With the most recent scandal costing the company around USD2 Billion last year, for falsifying fuel economy figures for one of their Kei cars, and a number of other scandals that the company had weathered through in the past, this has put the automaker into a less than ideal position to do very much R&D work for their product line-up.

Fortunately for Mitsubishi, Nissan had, back in 2016 bought over a controlling stake in the struggling car firm. This may however prove to be a double edged sword, as the fresh funds from the Renault-Nissan partnership may save the company; however there will likely be an extensive re-look of their entire product line-up over the next few years. It would after all not make much sense in Nissan’s case, to have a car brand which you own, compete in the same market segment.

Having said a very fitting good bye recently, with their final Evolution X model, what will be next for the manufacturer?

While we do occasionally come across renderings by various enthusiasts of their idea of what the “New 2018 Lancer” might look like, some of which did look quite attractive, and many do remain hopeful, we would likely not see a new Lancer materialise from Mitsubishi.

While we can expect more SUVs and Crossovers in the coming years, Mitsubishi will also focus their energies on their line-up of electric vehicles, pooling precious resources with the Renault-Nissan alliance. Locally, we have also seen the recent launch of the Space Star, the hatch version of their successful Attrage subcompact sedan, at the Singapore Motorshow 2017. While the Lancer moniker may be laid to rest for now, we can expect in the near future, a new product line-up, with changing times, will take on quite a different approach to what we have all been accustomed to.

While we bid goodbye to a car that many of us may have held close to us at some point of our lives, as a trusty mode of transport, and may have even detailed or washed it with pride. With an illustrious product run of more than 40 years, here is a look at some of the Lancers of the past.


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