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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Production Set To End

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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Production Set To End
Photo credit: Gen Kanai / Flickr

Many sports car enthusiasts around the world will be disappointed by the latest news from Mitsubishi Motors. The Japanese automaker intends to stop making its Lancer Evolution sedan by December 2014. There may still be a future for this high-performance vehicle, but it’s not clear if Mitsubishi will continue to use the “Evolution” model name.

Why is it being discontinued?

Although the Lancer Evolution has won high praise from reviewers and racing fans, sales figures remain unimpressive. The more significant problem is that this car’s average fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon doesn’t fit Mitsubishi’s most recent marketing strategy.

The automaker wants to create a new image that presents it as a manufacturer of energy-efficient cars that cause less harm to the environment.

Will there be a replacement?

Some news reports suggest that Mitsubishi will create an electric or hybrid successor to the Evolution. It is rumored that the car might have a gasoline hybrid engine with a rechargeable battery and plug-in charger. The new vehicle may replace the Evolution as a Mitsubishi’s top performance model, but it’s uncertain if this car would be based on the Lancer.

Rumors also suggest that an upcoming electric model might be named the “Evo,” with new capitalization to reflect its fuel source. Mitsubishi is expected to build the next generation of Lancers on a Renault chassis, but it appears likely to develop its own design for the unnamed electric sports car. However, this new project has yet to be confirmed.

Does the company have a larger plan?

Mitsubishi has announced its intention to bolster sales by updating the company’s entire model line-up, including sedans, sport utility vehicles and minivans. The company plans to have other automakers manufacture many of its conventional cars, while it focuses on the development and production of electric vehicles. Mitsubishi also intends to eliminate five less-desirable models.

What led to this car’s demise?

The Evo’s future seemed far more promising at one time. This model was originally based on the Galant and the basic Lancer. It first appeared in 1992 when Mitsubishi produced and quickly sold 2,500 units in Japan. One year later, an enhanced but slightly larger version was introduced. It gained an impressive spoiler in the mid-1990s as top-notch performances at the World Rally Championship boosted sales.

With the help of a skilled Finnish driver, the car won a WRC title for the first time in 1996. It came in fifth in the last round. Mitsubishi unveiled yet another generation of the Lancer “Evo” during the following year. It featured sophisticated new technology and a more powerful engine. Meanwhile, driver Tommi Makinen won three additional titles at the WRC.

The Evolution eventually became available in Australia and Europe, but quantities remained limited through the late ’90s. A special edition of the car celebrated Makinen’s victories in 1999. As the eighth generation was introduced four years later, American drivers were finally able to buy the “Evo.”

During the past 22 years, Mitsubishi has sold almost 250,000 units of this model. The company reported that North American sales were up about 2 percent in 2013. For the 2014 model year, it features a touch screen sound system and a two-liter engine that runs on premium gas. Reviewers generally give it higher marks on performance than comfort.

Although it remains popular within a certain niche, the Lancer Evolution’s $35,000 price tag and racing-centric design meant that it would never produce impressive sales figures. The car’s demise is largely a consequence of changing driver and automaker priorities. Nonetheless, fans still have plenty of time to buy one.

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