Mitsubishi Motors Europe has no plans to drop either the Pajero (Shogun in the UK, Montero in Spain and the US) nor the Pajero Sport (Shogun Sport in the UK, Montero in Spain, Montero Sport in the US).

The company was responding to reports that Mitsubishi North America is to axe three key models from its range over the next two years.

On Monday, trade paper Automotive News said Mitsubishi Motors America Inc. will scrap the five-seat Montero Sport SUV at the end of the 2004 model year while the larger seven-seat Montero will be removed from the lineup after the 2006 model year. The slow-selling Diamante sedan, imported from Mitsubishi Australia, will also get the axe at the end of 2004.

A company source told Automotive News that financially strapped Mitsubishi can’t afford to upgrade the big Montero to meet new safety and emissions standards.

However, the view is different on this side of the Atlantic.

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“The SUV sector has long been a key provider of profit and volume for Mitsubishi Motors over the years,” said Alex Thomas, public relations manager at Mitsubishi Motors Europe.

“That is set to continue: both Pajero (+2.9%) and Pajero Sport (+24.7%) have increased volume versus last year (Jan-Jun’04 vs Jan-Jun’03). This growth has been fuelled by increased demand in Spain and particularly the UK. If you take the UK for the same period as above, sales of Shogun (Pajero) are up 46% and those of Shogun Sport (Pajero Sport) by a considerable 127%. And this growth comes in one of the most profitable sectors of the market.”

Thomas added that Mitsubishi Europe “already has a large and loyal customer base in the SUV sector. But equally important from a strategic point of view, the Mitsubishi Motors brand is deeply rooted in off-road/4×4/SUV, as well as in rallying. Moving forward these two elements combine to form the Mitsubishi Motors DNA which underpins our product direction for the future.

“Any discontinuation of Pajero and Pajero Sport would simply make no sense taking into account volume, profit, customer base and brand development.

“The SUV segment is an essential and strategic one for Mitsubishi Motors; this is true for the short term and will remain the case for the medium and long terms.”

Mitsubishi spokeswoman Dotty Diemer on Monday confirmed to Automotive News the cancellation of the Diamante and Montero Sport but would not comment on the Montero or new engines – the paper also reported that Mitsubishi will delay some purchases of new four-cylinder engines built at a joint venture in Dundee, Michigan with Hyundai Motor Co. and the Chrysler group as part of some cost-cutting measures announced by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in Japan as it tries to recover from heavy losses.

Automotive News said the Montero Sport’s demise had long been rumoured but dealers the paper contacted said they didn’t know the Diamante was going as well.

Automotive News noted that Mitsubishi’s US sales have been falling for months – sales were down 26.7% to 101,802 through June compared to the first half of 2003.

Diamante sales reportedly peaked at 25,267 in 1993 but were just 9,174 in 2003, while the Montero Sport’s best year was 2000, with 66,375 sales and sales totaled 20,306 last year.

Sales of the seven-seat Montero were 3,180 through June, down 26.6% from the first half of 2003, Automotive News added.

With the loss of the Diamante and Montero Sport, US dealers will have four car nameplates and three trucks to sell in 2005, the paper said.