Yes, the Mitsubishi Evo could become an electrified crossover, but don’t panic


By now, many of you have seen that Mitsubishi will reveal a concept with the Evolution name at the Tokyo Motor Show, and it will be an electrified crossover. On the surface, that sounds like heresy when the Evolution name has always stood for an uncompromising, rally-bred, turbocharged sports sedan. But don’t jump to the conclusion that this will be a terrible, halfhearted product that ruins the Evo name. It’s a smart move for Mitsubishi, it could be the only way we get a performance vehicle from the company, and there’s no reason it can’t be good.

Creating an Evo version of a crossover, or even a standalone Evo model, simply makes the most sense for Mitsubishi right now. There’s no sign that people are getting tired of little lifted automobiles, which means that’s where the sales and money are. Because of that, crossovers are the only product that Mitsubishi can safely afford to invest in right now. As much as we’d like to see another Evo sedan, the company can’t afford to sink a big development budget into a one-off sedan for the very small enthusiast market. Investing in a basic sedan to use as a base isn’t a good idea either, since that market also continues to shrink, and it’s populated with very competitive models.

Those facts won’t comfort Mitsubishi fans, but looking at it another way could. Rather than looking at this concept as Evolution blasphemy, consider it a sign that the company wants to make something exciting again. Since most of the news from Mitsubishi has been the discontinuation of really old models, and updates to the less-old models still in the lineup, it’s been hard to tell if any of the Mitsubishi that fans loved was left. Look at this crossover as a gateway to getting a fun Mitsubishi again.

And this possible future Evo could genuinely be fun. We’re not exactly raving fans of crossovers, either, since they’re often heavy, expensive, slow and inefficient compared with similarly sized hatchbacks and sedans. But that’s not a hard and fast rule. Nissan proved this with the Juke Nismo. Despite its tall body, it had a healthy amount of power and entertaining dynamics. There’s no reason Mitsubishi couldn’t do the same with a small crossover. It might even be better, because Mitsubishi clearly has some wizards when it comes to weight and cost, as evidenced by the one-ton, ultra-affordable Mitsubishi Mirage.

The same goes for electrification. Sure, things like the Prius are horribly dull, and the CR-Z lacked the performance and efficiency to be a satisfying car, but those are issues of execution, not concept. In the CR-Z’s case specifically, the issue was that it wasn’t good at one particular thing. If Mitsubishi highlighted the performance side of electrification, perhaps with a pair of torque-vectoring electric motors for the rear wheels of a hybrid Evo, you could have a unique and fun machine. Even a full electric could be enjoyable. Tesla has built shockingly fast electric cars with good range, and even the Chevy Bolt EV and BMW i3 are punchy and fun to drive. BMW even has a performance i3 on the way, which we hope starts a trend of more hot EVs.

There’s no good alternative: Mitsubishi needs to focus on crossovers, even for performance vehicles, because that’s how it can make money. But we shouldn’t panic, because trends aren’t rules, and crossovers and hybrids don’t have to be boring.

View this as the evolution of the Evolution. It’s survival of the fittest: Sometimes a duckbilled platypus is a better fit for its environment than a cheetah. We’re in a crossover environment right now. But if that environment gives us a platypus, let’s hope it has cheetah speed.

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Mitsubishi Evolution nameplate evolves into an electric SUV


Let’s imagine a Mitsubishi enthusiast awakens after having slept a decade. At first he isn’t alarmed at all, since the Lancer he last saw before taking a long nap still looks the same. The Galant is long gone, but that doesn’t bother him much. The first shock he experiences is when he realizes the Eclipse name has been reserved for a 2018 crossover — so would it be best not to tell him the vaunted Evolution nameplate will be used in an electric SUV?

That’s the plan according to Mitsubishi, as the carmaker announced it will show its e-Evolution Concept at the 45thTokyo Motor Show next month. Mitsubishi speaks of a watershed moment taking place at the show, as it “will wave the flag under new circumstances to usher a new era of longterm growth and sustainable development, returning to where it belongs to better embrace the future.” In short, electric SUVs.

According to Mitsubishi, the e-Evolution is a preview for a “low-slung aerodynamic SUV Coupe,” and it will be a high-performance, all-wheel-drive vehicle with electric power. Of course, the very name Evolution stands for continuously evolving vehicles, so a change of approach from turbocharging winged Lancers isn’t that ill-advised. The included photo was distributed under the file name “1st Teaser,” so perhaps we will see more photos as the showtime gets nearer.

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Renault-Nissan goes for closer cooperation, outsells VW and Toyota


PARIS — Renault-Nissan plans to double cost savings to nearly $12 billion by 2022, partly through closer cooperation with Mitsubishi, but left key questions about the automakers’ alliance unresolved.

Chairman Carlos Ghosn has pledged to step up the pace of integration after Nissan took a controlling stake in Mitsubishi last year. The 18-year-old Renault-Nissan pairing has only recently begun rolling out cars on common architectures.

Combined sales volumes are expected to rise to 14 million vehicles by 2022 from 10.5 million expected this year, with revenue advancing by a third to $240 billion, the alliance said at a news conference in Paris on Friday.

However, any investors impatient for a new capital or management structure to speed integration and prepare Ghosn’s succession were likely to be disappointed.

There was “no answer from Ghosn on the possibility of a merger by 2022,” Jeffries analyst Philippe Houchois noted.

12 NEW ALL-ELECTRICS

Ghosn has been seeking a new second-in-command, sources told Reuters in June. But such plans are linked to thornier questions about the balance of power between the two main carmakers and the French government’s outsize clout as Renault’s biggest shareholder, supported by double voting rights.

Twelve new pure-electric models will be on the road by 2022 as Renault-Nissan seeks to defend the head-start it gained with the current generation of battery cars, spearheaded by the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, as more competitors join the fray.

With 5.27 million cars and vans delivered in the first half of the year, Renault-Nissan now claims the mantle of the world’s biggest carmaker, ahead of Volkswagen and Toyota, even though Renault has never consolidated the sales of its 43.4 percent-owned Japanese affiliate into its own.

Under existing plans, the alliance is seeking to increase synergies — from cutting costs and boosting revenue — to 5.5 billion euros next year from 5 billion recorded in 2016.

SHARED PLATFORMS

A fourth common vehicle platform will be shared across the alliance by 2022, the companies said on Friday, underpinning a future generation of electric cars which, together with hybrids, are expected to account for 30 percent of group sales.

Renault-Nissan will aim to deliver more electric vehicles and also make greater use of shared technology and manufacturing processes.

“Without a doubt, what we have seen and acted on and executed eight years ago is becoming mainstream,” Ghosn told reporters at a presentation in Paris.

Renault will soon launch an electrified version of the Kwid mini-SUV in China, he added, confirming media reports.

As more models are launched on the new platforms by Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and their other brands, shared architectures will account for 70 percent of sales by 2022, with common engines installed in 75 percent.

Friday’s announcement was thin on details of how closer convergence would be achieved. Relations between Renault and Nissan engineering teams have sometimes been fraught, hampering savings in areas such as engines and transmissions.

Convergence efforts will continue with no radical change to management structures, Ghosn said, suggesting that he had no immediate plans to hand over the reins.

Ghosn stepped aside as Nissan chief executive in April while remaining chairman; his current Renault CEO contract expires next year.

“I am intending to execute on the plan as long as it makes sense,” he said.

More information on operational and product strategies and financial goals are expected when Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi each announce their mid-term plans in coming weeks — starting with the French carmaker on Oct. 6.

Reporting by Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume

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