2003 Mitsubishi Magna
This is what the Australian designed and built Mitsubishi Magna will look like in just two years’ time.

It is bigger than the current model, roomier and will be powered by a new 3.8-litre V6, currently under development in Japan.

And the car will be packaged and priced to take on the market-leading Holden Commodore in the large car segment, writes Mike Duffy.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia – which appears to be winning a long-running battle for survival – has broken with car industry tradition by revealing a detailed artist’s impression of the revised Magna not due for launch until 2003.

And Mitsubishi says this is no phony illustration to keep the competition guessing.

It represents a faithful image of the quarter-size clay model the Adelaide-based car company’s designers are working on, and how the final car will look at launch.

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Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has given its Australian outpost the go-ahead for design and engineering work on the car that is expected to cost $A100 million ($US51 million) to bring to market in Australia as the Magna/Verads – and overseas with Diamante badging. It’s all part of the parent company’s commitment to continued manufacturing Down Under well into the future.

The new car will strengthen export sales in the United States, the Middle East, New Zealand and other countries Mitsubishi has earmarked for exports.

The new Magna/Diamante features sweeping lines, from an eye-catching, knife-edge front to a broad-shoulder back. It will leave no one in any doubt about where Mitsubishi Australia is heading with its mainstream models.

That means a dramatic shift away from conservative, play-it-safe designs. Mitsubishi Australia managing director Tom Phillips has revealed the car is far more space-efficient than before and will represent the model’s most aggressive attack to date on the big car segment.

“Oh yes, we have Commodore and (Ford’s) Falcon right in our sights with the update,” Phillips says.

“The car has been designed to look dynamic from every angle. It’s a pretty impressive package considering it’s a mid-model update and not an all-new car.”

To provide the thrust to go with the new-found aggressive attitude of the Magna, Mitsubishi is planning to offer a 3.8-litre V6 to match the Commodore. It has yet to be decided whether the current 3.5-litre V6 will be offered as an option.

“There is a perception that the capacity of the engine is directly associated with the size of a car,” Phillips says. “If you want to make inroads into the big car market, you need a semi-muscle motor. So we’re making the car look radical; we’re making it big enough to carry a family. I’m told it will really perform.”

Mitsubishi’s Australian dealer network gave their collective approval when they were shown a drawing of the 2003 Magna at their annual conference.

They told Phillips this would be the car to inject excitement into the brand’s bread-and-butter model.

Asked why he has revealed the design two years before launch, Phillips says: “Yes, it’s an unusual move.

“We are changing the direction of the company. We are being more aggressive. We are not making excuses for being in the market – and we are not prepared to remain the tail-ender of the four local manufacturers.”

But the shutters come down when he is asked for further information. “Let’s keep something back for the launch,” he says.

Meanwhile, a four-cylinder model will definitely be part of the line-up. Phillips hope to introduce the option for the current model within months to win back sales Mitsubishi handed on a plate to Toyota’s Camry when the four was dropped from the Magna line-up two years ago.

The switch back to offering a four cylinder alternative is designed to boost sales of the 3.5 litre V6 – but will be possible only if the parent company is prepared to cut margins on 2.4 or 2.6 litre multi-valve motors currently used in Japanese domestic models.

Phillips believes a four cylinder Magna could be worth 15,000 additional sales – 10,000 in the Middle East and 5000 in Australia.

Toyota sold 19,644 four-cylinder Camrys in Australia last year, compared with 12,230 V6 models and 1460 luxury Vientas. Magna sales slumped to 23,270 units last year and 3001 luxury Veradas were also shifted.

Author Mike Duffy is motoring editor of The Advertiser and the Sunday Mail in Adelaide, South Australia

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