Mitsubishi to continue fleet sales push

  • Lance Bradley, Mitsubishi’s MD shares his vision for the brand
  • Outlander PHEV has renewed interest across the range
  • Hybrids and four-wheel drives will remain the focus

Manufacturers often talk about cars having a halo effect upon others in the range. Typically expensive, fast, luxurious or a combination of all three, they are models customers aspire to own but maybe cannot afford to buy or run.

The theory then goes that having been drawn into the showroom, rather than leave empty-handed, customers will instead sign on the dotted line for a lesser model so that they can still be associated with the brand.

Having reported sales up 93 percent across the range in 2014, it seems Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is the Japanese marque’s halo car, albeit one that doesn’t fit entirely with convention, as Managing Director Lance Bradley explained.

Analysing customers’ needs

Although the Outlander PHEV is Mitsubishi’s first plug-in hybrid, the company itself has a history in developing electrical propulsion, the i-MiEV being a case in point.

That’s not to say marketing the Outlander PHEV was a straightforward decision as, Lance confirmed “lessons were learned” about pricing from the i-MiEV experience.

“We opted for a bold strategy with the Outlander PHEV, carefully analysing the market and, by pricing it at an equivalent rate to the diesel-engined versions, making it financially attractive to private buyers and company car drivers alike.”

Confirmation that the Outlander PHEV has rapidly established itself as the UK’s best-selling plug-in hybrid reinforces the MD’s approach.

“We’ve been very careful to ensure our dealers explain to customers whether a PHEV or diesel Outlander is best for them, because it’s important they get the car that’s most appropriate for their needs.” Consequently sales of the 2.2-litre engined diesels have increased significantly too.

But here’s where the halo effect of the PHEV is impacting upon the rest of the Mitsubishi range, with sales of the ASX, Shogun and L200 pick-up all up year on year.

Expanding the company car market

Fleet sales haven’t been Mitsubishi’s forte in the past, particularly as not many models in a range dominated by rugged 4x4s had particularly attractive Benefit in Kind (BIK) taxation rates.

While the Outlander PHEV has turned that notion on its head, the company accepts there’s more to do: “We’ve expanded our fleet sales team with a couple of experienced appointments who are busy talking to decision makers, illustrating how cost-effective the PHEV is. In some cases it makes greater financial sense to run a PHEV as a company car than to not run one at all,” as Lance confirmed. Targeting accountancy firms appears to be paying off as more businesses add Mitsubishi to their list of manufacturer choices.

End-users evidently find the Outlander PHEV a compelling argument, something Mitsubishi is keen to capitalise on with a target of 20 percent of its overall sales being plug-in hybrids by 2020.

Outlander PHEV Concept-S and beyond

Centre stage on Mitsubishi’s stand was the Outlander PHEV Concept-S, a bolder, more luxurious interpretation of today’s production model with a more distinctive nose, hinting at a facelift for the range in a year’s time.

We were already aware that the popular L200 pick-up will be replaced by an all-new model in summer 2015, but confirmation that a new ASX crossover, expected a year later, will also feature plug-in hybrid technology should bring that model to wider audience too.

So, what about the question on every enthusiast’s lips: when will we see a new Evo?

Lance wouldn’t be drawn on specifics but when an industry boss is an acknowledged ‘car guy’ and suggests that with some degree of electrical propulsion, “if it delivers exciting performance and handles as an Evo should, then why not?” we know the desire still burns bright at Mitsubishi for one.