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Mitsubishi Motors to freeze development of flagship SUV

Mitsubishi will end new development on its flagship Pajero SUV.

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors will end development of its banner Pajero sport utility vehicle amid slowing sales and mounting costs, focusing instead on environmentally friendly autos.

     The Pajero, also known as the Montero, debuted in 1982. The vehicle helped define the concept of the SUV with its focus on four-wheel drive and off-road capability. Wins in off-road races and other press made the vehicle one of the Japanese automaker's flagships.

     The current fourth-generation Pajero was born in 2006 after the line underwent a full remodeling. Some 54,000 of the vehicles were made in fiscal 2014 for sale at home and abroad -- a far cry from annual production of over 160,000 during the Pajero's heyday in the 1990s. Improving fuel efficiency is also becoming more of a financial burden as environmental regulations stiffen around the world.

     Mitsubishi Motors will therefore forgo development of a new-generation Pajero. The company plans to meet lingering demand for the vehicles from die-hard fans and others by continuing to produce the current model.

     The automaker now looks to turn its development efforts to smaller SUVs, including the Outlander, as well as plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Autos highlighting the company's environmental technology will be pushed to the fore, rather than those used in motor sports.

     Mitsubishi Motors' midterm business plan has already put the company on track to trim the number of models it makes. Production of the compact Lancer Evolution will end by next March. The company has also pulled out of luxury sedans and non-electric, commercial minivehicles, instead sourcing them from Nissan Motor and Suzuki Motor, respectively, under original equipment manufacturer arrangements. Staff and capital will be further concentrated on development of the automaker's strongest lines going forward.


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