The next-generation versions of the Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara pick-ups will be a product of the alliance between the brands, with the strengths of each to be played off against one another to create a sort of mutant mega ute.
But don’t expect a Mitsussan Triara or Nisubishi Navton… each of the vehicles will have their own distinct identity – even if they do share the same underpinnings and components, not to mention drivetrains and dimensions – when they’re eventually replaced.
Trevor Mann, Mitsubishi Motors chief operations officer, told media this week in Sydney that he has already assessed what needs to happen for the next-generation versions of each of the utes with Renault-Nissan Alliance chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn.
“From the alliance last October, what have we done since then? We’ve really gone into the low-hanging fruit: looking at how we can get competitive costs, how we can lever the scale volume to get lower cost parts,” he said.
“You can make quick decisions on … cost competitiveness of platforms. The last time Mr Ghosn was in the region we were in Indonesia and Thailand and we had a big review where we’d done a complete analysis on Navara versus Triton, from a cost point of view, not from a product competitiveness point of view,” he said.
“It actually showed the Mitsubishi had quite strong performance, surprisingly, given the difference in size and scale of the companies. Mitsubishi has done a great job with the Triton – not only from a technical point of view, because as you know it is a really good pick-up, but also from a cost performance point of view in Thailand.”
So, what does that mean for ute buyers? Well, probably that there’ll be a new-generation mish-mash model with distinct elements that will be favoured to each specific buyer type.
“As far as what the customer sees, feels and touches, that will be Mitsubishi. The advantage of the alliance, obviously it’s component sharing, platform sharing, this type of thing. It’s a necessary element for the alliance, and for Mitsubishi.
“What the body shape is, what the body style is, what the design will be, how it feels and drives will be uniquely engineered by Mitsubishi,” he said of the next-generation Triton.
“What we would do is say, first of all, which is the best. So, we could be talking about powertrains, we could be talking about platforms. So which technically will we say is the best platform, technically which is best in terms of performance. And obviously from a cost point of view, which is the cheapest. We’ll make this balance between best and affordable.
“What Mitsubishi wants as its key attributes for its pick-up will be engineered by Mitsubishi. What Nissan wants for its key attributes for its pick-up will be engineered by Nissan,” he said.
“I have a clear understanding of what our role is, and what Mr Ghosn expects is that each brand punches above its weight.”
That drive to ensure that the brands remain identifiable and undiluted was expressed by Ghosn earlier this week, when he told media he wants the distinct companies to remain distinct in their marketing and sales strategies.
“Each brand is totally autonomous,” Ghosn said. “This is something that is very important to understand. Renault does its own strategy, its product strategy; Mitsubishi does its own product strategy; Nissan does its own product strategy. There is nothing harmonised when it comes to the white space.”
Mann said that a Triton buyer will certainly put different emphasis on aspects of their new ute than a Navara shopper – while taking a subtle swipe at the lacklustre sales of the Nissan.
“Certain manufacturers see certain things as important because of their customer base. This is what our customer likes, this is what we really want to do – that would perhaps skew some areas of the design: the size, the balance of the distribution of the size.
“We’re a much stronger brand than Nissan in Australia right now, and as a group we want to keep it that way,” he said.
What all that means for the next-generation Triton-based Fiat Fullback (if there is one) and the soon-to-be-revealed Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute remains to be seen.
It could be a while, after all – new-generation Navara/Triton models may not lob until 2021 or so.