After 11 dormant years, Mitsubishi has confirmed that it will be bringing back its Ralliart performance division in an attempt to spice up its line-up.
The news was confirmed at an earnings announcement in Tokyo yesterday. At the event, Mitsubishi CEO Takau Kato confirmed the announcement would include the brand’s return to the motorsport world, and an increased focus on giving customers more “Mitsubishi-ness”.
“For customers who wish to experience our Mitsubishi-ness, we will launch custom-made accessories for our model lineup as well as re-entering motorsport events around the world,” he said.
The reference to “Mitsubishi-ness” may (and does) sound a little hokey, but it points to an acknowledgement of one of the brand’s biggest problems — a lack of identity amongst its products. The firm’s line-up is now almost exclusively SUVs, save for the Triton ute and Mirage subcompact.
Images in the report itself point to the Triton as being the sub-brand’s first performance project, adding Mitsubishi to the long list of marques keen to take on Ford’s Ranger Raptor in the off-road adventure pick-up stakes.
The mention of a Triton Ralliart points to the fact that, while Ralliart as a division of Mitsubishi has been dormant for over a decade, there have been smaller projects scattered around the world that have used the Ralliart name.
A few years ago a locally assembled Triton Ralliart was quietly offered in New Zealand, featuring a more aggressive front bumper, new wheels, black-out treatment on all the chrome elements, bucket seats, and signature Ralliart striping.
The announcement’s timing is curious, given that it comes within 24 hours of Renault’s confirmation that its performance division, Renault Sport, would be phased out — with future hot Renaults to be sold as Alpines. Renault and Mitsubishi are two thirds of a three-way alliance that also includes Nissan.
It’s unknown which forms of motorsport Mitsubishi will investigate, although rallying seems a likely candidate. Its achievements across the World Rally Championship and the Dakar Rally made the brand synonymous with gravel bashing through the 1990s and 2000s.
It’s not hard to draw parallels between the impact Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division has had on the brand’s perception in recent years, particularly with the introduction of the GR Yaris homologation-special-ish hot hatch — a project that just happened to be overseen by former Mitshishi icon and current Toyota motorsport advisor Tommi Makinen.