October 24, 2002

Mitsubishi on track with Canadian launch
Interview: Pierre Gagnon, President Mitsubishi Motors of North America

by Paul Williams

Pierre Gagnon
Pierre Gagnon

Ottawa – Mitsubishi’s launch in Canada is proceeding as planned, according to
Pierre Gagnon, President of Mitsubishi Motors of North America.

The two most popular Mitsubishis since the company’s Canadian launch in
October are the Lancer and the Eclipse. Brand awareness of the Mitsubishi
name among Canadians went up from 13% in June to 38% in October. The company
sold 1000 vehicles in its first month in Canada.

But Mr. Gagnon says that Canada will have to wait for the exotic EVO Lancer.
That rally-bred Mitsubishi super-car will be seen on the roads of
PlayStation 2’s Gran Turismo 3 or in the US. But not here, not yet. The
American market gets 6000 of the desirable high-performance EVO 8s.

“It’s mainly the bumper standards in Canada,” says Mr. Gagnon. “The low
volume of EVO sales in Canada wouldn’t warrant the redesign expense at this
point. We’ll probably have to wait until the next redesign, when the car
will be built for full North American compliance.”

In the future all Mitsubishi vehicles will be built to a uniform
North-American standard that will comply with regulations in Canada, the US
and Mexico, said Mr. Gagnon. Option packages will still vary between the
markets, however.

In the meantime, a redesigned Lancer will be introduced in August 2003, hot
on the heels of its Canadian debut this year. This is the second year for
the current Lancer in the US. It was introduced in Japan a year earlier.

Normally the Japanese market would be due for the redesign next year,
explained Mr. Gagnon, but underscoring the importance of the North American
market to Mitsubishi, the redesigned Lancer will be launched in North
America ahead of its Japanese debut.

Of special interest to driving enthusiasts, a version with a bigger engine,
positioned between the successful Lancer OZ Rally and the EVO will also make
its debut. That’s a car we will see in Canada, although its actual
specifications have yet to be announced.

“The OZ Rally has been a real surprise,” said Mr. Gagnon. “We thought it
would attract maybe 10% of sales as it’s basically an appearance package,
but 20% of Lancer sales in the US are the OZ Rally version.”

“What we’re aiming for,” continued Mr. Gagnon, is a full range of Lancers
from the base models through to the EVO.”

The redesign will also permit a variation on the Lancer theme — a Sportback
Lancer, along the lines of the successful Mazda Protégé 5.

Mitsubishi is also developing a line of accessories that will be introduced
in the fall of next year. These will permit owners to further personalize
their vehicles.

The Mitsubishi Outlander, a competitor to the Subaru Forester and Honda
CR-V, is selling well in the US and is now arriving in Canada. Look for a
horsepower increase next year in that vehicle as well.

Mitsubishi dealerships are now opening across the country. Mr. Gagnon points
out that the age of their sales people is younger than the industry average.
The company’s marketing tends to focus on a youthful clientele, expressed in
the catchy, “put the body in motion” television commercials.

Dealerships feature a technology bar, where customers can access web-based
information and continue their Internet research onsite.

“Internet use is huge in Canada,” said Mr. Gagnon. “We want to make sure
that when people are researching a vehicle online at home, they can continue
at the dealership where they left off.”

The next vehicle to be launched by Mitsubishi is an SUV, the Endeavor.

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