Mitsubishi’s record car sales in 2014 have increased the prospects of the revered Evo badge returning on a high-performance version of the second-generation ASX crossover, which is due next year.
Fuelled partly by high demand for the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi broke its own records last year, with year-on-year UK sales surging by 158% and the global picture looking similarly healthy.
The sales picture bolsters the likelihood of a high-performance ASX Evo, which would feature a hybrid powertrain and four-wheel drive.
“Ultimately it all comes down to the financial case for it and whether the company has the resources to do it,” Mitsubishi’s UK boss Lance Bradley told Autocar.
“But the company had a record sales year in 2014 and the more we have success the easier it is to do these things. It's a project that we know would benefit the company, but until now it has been a case of getting the building blocks in place step by step.”
Speaking to Autocar earlier this year, Mitsubishi's global boss Tetsuro Aikawa said: “In the future, we would like to launch such a vehicle with Evo characteristics. In Japanese, when you pronounce ‘Oh’ [in Evo], it means ‘king’. So we would like to launch this type of car, featuring EV and PHEV technology, which is the ultimate of its kind. ‘EV’ for electric vehicle, ‘O’ for king - Evo.”
The high-performance ASX is understood to have been previewed by the XR-PHEV II concept at the Geneva motor show last year. An Evo version would be four-wheel drive, in line with past Evos, and not front-drive like the concept.
Aikawa said: “It has to be light and fast - something performance-orientated. That’s what we want.”
Lessons learned from the Pikes Peak racer, the MiEV Evolution, could aid the development of a hybrid high-performance SUV. However, Mitsubishi would not be drawn on when the new model may come to market, stating only that it would be “far in the future”, after the planned 2016 launch of the next ASX.
Aikawa said: “To develop these kind of vehicles, we have to sell a lot of the base models, so we can cover the research and development costs.”
Product boss Kanenori Okamoto has also previously said that the Evo will be “replaced in spirit by an SUV with high performance”.
A high-performance model that made use of Mitsubishi’s hybrid technologies would additionally further promote the brand’s efficiency-minded offerings, such as the popular Outlander PHEV.
The XR-PHEV II concept, in standard form, features a plug-in hybrid petrol-electric system with a claimed 160bhp output.