Is Mitsubishi on the path to being a cool, performance brand with rally cred once again?
The company is poised to take some steps in this direction at the very least, having today promised to reveal a Ralliart Concept Car at the Tokyo Auto Salon from January 14, 2022.
Mitsubishi promised it would bring back Ralliart after a hiatus during its 2020/21 financial results presentation in May 2021.
It was billed as part of a push to add extra “Mitsubishi Motors-ness” to upcoming vehicles. Whatever that meant, it hints at getting back to some of the amazing rally engineering it was famous for in WRC and Dakar.
Sure, MMC disappointed with its first move: Thai-market Triton and Pajero Sport models with sticker packs. But this imminent concept appears a much more substantive move, certainly one designed to restore some buzz to its brand.
It has told us very little about the show vehicle so far, other than two paragraphs repeated verbatim here:
“The Ralliart concept car brings together Mitsubishi Motors’ engineering and passion for Monozukuri challenges (craftsmanship).
“With a premium-feel and a strong sense of presence, the styling expresses the company’s vision for the new Ralliart,” it said.
A single accompanying teaser image shows a lower bumper and diffuser with diamond-pattern inlays and a modernised take on the old Ralliart logo.
Aside from the concept having a premium slant and a design that previews its near-future, we have way more questions than answers.
We don’t know if it’ll be representative of a standalone model or a derivative, whether there’ll be a Nissan version, and whether it’ll be petrol, PHEV, or all-electric.
From a marketing perspective, a performance plug-in hybrid EV would make a lot of sense, since Mitsubishi is widely viewed as a leader with its two-motor system.
Should Mitsubishi pull the trigger and make a road-going Ralliart car, its Australian division would be dead keen.
“We’d love to see Ralliart come back but if it comes back we want it in a particular way,” Mitsubishi Australia’s head of product strategy Owen Thomson told us in September this year.
“It has heritage and there’s memory in the market. We’re very cautious about the way it comes back, we’re aware of what’s happening overseas but we need to see the details.”
Ralliart’s history as a high-performance and motorsport development arm for Mitsubishi includes crowning achievements like various iterations of Lancer Evos made famous with Tommi Mäkinen at the wheel.
There will (almost certainly) be no more Lancer Evolution, with Mitsubishi’s big SUV focus and long-standing Dakar Rally success make it an obvious candidate to get more involved in rally raid or cross-country 4×4 rallying, with road-going spinoffs brought to fruition from there.
Mitsubishi has a mixed bag when it comes to delivering on concepts: The 2019 Engelberg Tourer manifested as the new Outlander and the 2015 Concept XR-PHEV II gave at least a hint towards the Eclipse Cross.
On the other hand the 2017 e-Evolution Concept, which seems spiritually similar to the mystery Ralliart concept due to its ‘sportiness’, never went anywhere as Mitsubishi was soon after hit by the financial woes that saw Nissan become its majority stakeholder.