Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on Monday unveiled a remodeled compact wagon, the firm’s first new model since a series of defect coverups began surfacing in March.

“We position this new car as the first step for the revival of our domestic business,” MMC President Hideyasu Tagaya told reporters. “I am convinced that the Colt Plus will definitely be well received by consumers.”

The Colt Plus, a remodeled version of the Colt compact, is 4.2 meters in length, with the back end 30 cm longer to provide more trunk room, the company said.

Powered by a new 1.5-liter aluminum engine and a new intercooler-turbocharged engine in the sporty model, the Colt Plus is priced between 1.35 million yen and 1.76 million yen.

MMC officials said the small, lightweight engines provide strong driving performance and boast good fuel efficiency.

Targeting couples in their 20s and 30s with children, the company aims to sell 2,000 a month.

It has been almost 1 1/2 years since MMC launched its last model. The Colt’s launch was delayed for a month as the company waited until after it had recalled all of the vehicles involved in a total of 41 cases of covering up defects.

MMC, the country’s only unprofitable automaker, has been hit hard by plunging domestic sales due to its tainted image. Domestic sales fell 56 percent during the April-September period.

The automaker has refrained from advertising and instead has been engaged in restoring public trust, such as offering free vehicle checkups.

“With the launch of the Colt Plus, we would like to fully resume advertisements,” Tagaya said.

The company reiterated that the new compact wagon was developed under a strict system of checks to ensure its safety.

Tagaya apologized about the firm’s past misconduct but also showed confidence in attaining the 220,000 mark for domestic sales in the current fiscal year to March.

In June, MMC was forced to revise its revival plan within a month, lowering its domestic sales target to 220,000 units from 300,000 when sales were hurt more than expected.

“I get the feeling that after bottoming out in July, customers are returning and (sales) are showing recovery,” Tagaya said.

MMC’s revival plan includes launching 10 new models between fiscal 2004 and 2007. These will include sport utility vehicles like the Pajero, compact cars, minivehicles and sporty sedans.

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