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Mitsubishi Diamante and Montero Sport getting axed

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Mitsubishi eliminates slow sellers; Diamante, Montero Sport to be axed

By KATHY JACKSON | Automotive News

LOS ANGELES -- Mitsubishi Motors America Inc. will scrap its slow-selling Diamante sedan and five-seat Montero Sport SUV at the end of the 2004 model year.

The larger seven-seat Montero will be removed from the lineup after the 2006 model year. Financially strapped Mitsubishi can't afford to upgrade the big Montero to meet new safety and emissions standards, according to a company source.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi will delay some purchases of new four-cylinder engines built at a joint venture in Dundee, Mich. with Hyundai Motor Co. and the Chrysler group. The cutbacks are part of some cost-cutting measures announced by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in Japan as it tries to recover from heavy losses.

Mitsubishi spokeswoman Dotty Diemer confirmed cancellation of the Diamante and Montero Sport. The company would not comment on the Montero or the new engines.

"We now have the Galant GTS, so we felt it didn't make sense to keep (Diamante)," she says.

The Diamante, long Mitsubushi's flagship sedan, ranges in price from $25,594 to $28,214. The Galant GTS sedan sells for $26,292. All prices include a $595 destination fee.

The five-seat, four-door Montero Sport comes in two models equipped with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

The Montero Sport's demise had long been rumored but dealers contacted say they didn't know the Diamante was going, too.

"It (Diamante) hasn't been selling well, but when you're biting, kicking and scratching for sales, you need every car you can get," says Al Gossett, owner of Gossett Mitsubishi in Memphis, Tenn.

Mitsubishi's U.S. sales have been falling for months. Sales were down 26.7 percent to 101,802 through June compared to the first half of 2003.

Diamante sales peaked at 25,267 in 1993 but were just 9,174 in 2003.

The Montero Sport's best year was 2000, with 66,375 sales. Sales totaled 20,306 last year.

Sales of the seven-seat Montero were 3,180 through June, down 26.6 percent from the first half of 2003.

"The big Montero is a small number, too," Gossett says. "But at least it gives us a player in the full-sized SUV segment."

With the loss of Diamante and Montero Sport, U.S. dealers will have four car nameplates and three trucks to sell in 2005.

The Diamante is built at Mitsubishi's plant in Okazaki, Japan. The Montero and Montero Sport are produced in Sakahogi, Japan.

Mitsubishi will delay some purchases of four-cylinder engines produced at Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, the Dundee joint venture.

A company source says the redesigned 2007 Outlander will have only a 3.0-liter V-6, not the new 2.4- liter four-cylinder engine to be built in Dundee. The Galant also will not get the new 2.4-liter powertrain.

He says the redesigned 2008 Lancer will have the 2.4-liter engine when it goes on sale in the summer of 2007.

But he says it will not receive the new Dundee-built 2.0-liter engine until about six months after its debut because of spending cuts.


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