And he appears to have every reason to believe it. The embattled Japanese manufacturer is dragging itself out of the doldrums and is now poised to increase its fleet sales with new offerings such as the Lancer, Grandis, Colt and a revised L200 pick-up.
And while things aren’t going too well on a global basis, Mitsubishi saw year-on-year growth of 20% from 2000 to 2003 and 13% last year in the UK.
Speaking at a ride and drive event in Leamington Spa, Messenger said: ‘We are expecting a phenomenal year. Our main platforms are value for money, superb standard equipment levels, good build quality and reliability.
‘We have a very loyal following for the Mitsubishi badge already and we believe these new models will increase our fleet sales further.’
The C-segment Lancer has been on sale in Europe for some time now but only enters the UK line-up this month, after the demise of the Carisma at the end of 2004.
Going head to head with the likes of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, Lancer is offered in saloon and estate formats (there will be no hatchback) and is priced at between £9,999 and £11,999 on-the-road.
All models except the Estate Sport will be powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine offering 96bhp at 5,000rpm. The Sport features a 2.0-litre petrol with 133bhp at 5,750rpm. There will be no diesel derivatives.
Messenger commented: ‘When the Carisma stopped production at the end of last year, we were faced with having no C-segment car to offer so we decided to bring in the Lancer. This car was primarily built for the Japanese and European markets where hatchbacks do not feature as such a high priority.’
He aims to sell 3,000 Lancers a year, 55% of those being saloons.
The entry-level Equippe features as standard air-conditioning, alloy wheels, CD player, front and side airbags and metallic paint.
The Sport adds lowered suspension, 16-inch alloys, Momo three-spoke leather steering wheel and sports seats in the front.
On pricing, Mitsubishi points out that the Lancer Elegance costs £2,946 less than an equivalently-specced Toyota Corolla saloon and the Equippe estate is £3,646 less than an equivalent Peugeot 307 estate.
In addition, the Grandis MPV, which was launched in July last year, is now offered in Warrior guise, with a more aggressive front end, distinctive interior styling and a more powerful engine. Messenger said: ‘The Grandis Warrior is for people who really don’t want to drive an MPV but have to for practical reasons. It’s not just functional but good-looking too. This car has re-invented the MPV sector.’
Outside, the Warrior gets 18-inch alloy wheels, an aluminium sports grille, and chrome wing mirrors, door handles, rear tailgate grip and exhaust trim.
Inside, leather seats display the Warrior logo and there’s an 8-inch DVD entertainment system for rear passengers and a six-CD autochanger as standard.
Under the bonnet goes a 2.4-litre 16v petrol powerplant offering 162bhp at 6,000rpm, giving a 0-62mph time of 10 seconds and a top speed of 124mph (auto times 11.7 seconds and 118mph). On-the-road price is £22,499 for the manual and £23,499 for the automatic.
Thirdly, the L200 pick-up range has also been extended further and treated to a few revisions. The front end has been restyled and there is a new range-topping Animal double-cab, along with an all-new Warrior club cab.
The Animal has undergone a complete makeover, according to Mitsubishi, with new graphics on the body, 18-inch alloy wheels, new black leather seats and new monotone colour choices of starlight silver, cosmos black and titanium grey.
Standard equipment now includes satellite navigation, air conditioning, ABS with EBD, illuminated door entry guards and digital radio and CD player and a power upgrade to 138bhp. On-the- road price is £19,999 ex-VAT.
The Warrior club cab has a rear bench seat and is £15,699 ex-VAT.
Behind the wheel: Mitsubishi Lancer
THE new Mitsubishi Lancer may not quite have the finesse and drivability of the Ford Focus but you certainly can’t knock it for price.
I was offered a drive in the entry-level 1.6-litre Equippe and my first thought was that this car certainly didn’t look like a vehicle costing less than 10 grand.
With its alloy wheels, colour-coded bumpers and metallic paint, it would certainly not be looked at askance in the company car park.
Once on board, the dash is a bit down-market and plasticky, but as long as you don’t mind about looks, there is very little to sneer at.
There is plenty of legroom for lanky types like me and although the seats felt a bit squashy and unsupportive, they certainly aren’t the worst I’ve sat on.
With a 0-62mph time of 11.8 seconds and a top speed of 114mph, this engine won’t exactly set the world alight, but the type of person who is going to choose a Lancer will probably find the power more than adequate.
Gearchanging is nice and slick and the clutch is ultra-light, making the Lancer an altogether pleasant car to drive.
My only real complaint was the power steering, which was far too light for my liking and didn’t give any feedback at all about what was happening ’twixt tyres and road. Sadly it’s a complaint we hear far too often about Japanese-built vehicles.
REAL driving enthusiasts may sniff at the Lancer and look elsewhere. But for people who want nicely-specced car at a sensible price, the Lancer may well fit the bill.
|1.6 man/auto||1.6 est man/auto||2.0 est|
|Top speed (mph)||114/110||113/109||124|
|Comb fuel (mpg)||41.5/35.3||40.4/34.0||32.5|
|Price OTR (£)||9,999-11,249||10,499/11,749||11,999|
|Service intervals||9,000 miles||9,000 miles||9,000 miles|
Behind the wheel - L200 Animal
IT’S not particularly fast, it handles like a bag of angry cats in the rain, it’s noisy, it has the turning circle of an ocean-going liner and it will shake your fillings out on the roads.
But for some reason, Britain’s love affair with the Mitsubishi L200 shows no signs of waning. This vehicle is the undisputed king of the pick-up sector, taking a massive 35% of the total UK market last year.
Every time a new model comes out, it looks more aggressive than the old one and the punters just lap them up.
The new L200 Animal looks meaner than a grizzly bear and twice as tough and will no doubt mean Mitsubishi will retain its lead in the sector for 2005.
It’s an awesome beast with its dark paintwork and black leather seats. There is nothing subtle about the Animal – but then again there isn’t supposed to be.
Personally if I was going to buy an off-roader, I’d rather have one with a little bit more give in the suspension, but as the L200 is firmly in the number one slot, who am I to argue with Mitsubishi’s set-up?
The Animal is powered by a 2.5-litre turbodiesel powerplant offering a meaty 138bhp and 202lb-ft of torque. Out on the road, power is not exactly gut wrenching, but the L200 will cruise on up to around 100mph where legal on a good day.
As with most of the rivals, the L200 offers a huge range of fancy added extras, which will of course be added to the P11D price of the vehicle for benefit-in-kind taxation purposes. And talking of benefit-in-kind taxation, things are about to change big time for user-choosers who opt for a pick-up truck as a way of saving cash.
At present, drivers who are 22% taxpayers cough up just £110 a year for the privilege of driving one of these 4x4s as they are classed as commercial vehicles as long as they have a one-tonne payload or more.
From April 2007, the charge will rise to £660 and some doom and gloom merchants rather hastily predicted the end of the road for the sector.
But even £660 a year is a small price to pay for the kudos a vehicle like this can bring and latest predictions are that the market will continue to be buoyant.
Model: L200 Animal
Power (bhp): 138
Torque (lb-ft): 202
Towing weight (tonnes braked): 2.7
Price OTR (£ ex-VAT): 19,999
Service intervals: 9,000 miles
Warranty: three years/unlimited
On sale: Now
Behind the wheel: Grandis Warrior
I KNOW of many men who have been dragged kicking and screaming behind the wheel of an MPV after the arrival of a new baby or two. It’s not a pleasant sight, believe me.
Think how happy these people will be at the arrival of the new Grandis Warrior. This MPV is nothing at all like an MPV. It doesn’t even look like one.
On the outside, the Grandis could well be a large estate car – and then look at the Warrior’s front end. It screams ‘sport’ and ‘performance’ rather than ‘baby on board’ like most people carriers.
I jumped aboard an automatic version at the ride and drive day and was immediately impressed by the leather seats with the Warrior logo emblazoned on them and the stylish look of the interior. Surely no red-blooded male would mind driving a car like this.
In the back is the wonderful DVD system which swings down from the roof rather like on a plane. That should keep the kids happy for hours while dad is making the most of that 2.4-litre 162bhp engine which will take the car up to 124mph.
Also of note is the rear set of seats which fold down flat into the floor. Anyone who has struggled to remove the seats from the back of a Ford Galaxy (they weigh a ton and need the help of King Kong to get them back in again) will love the ones in the Grandis. Even with the rear seats upright, there is still a good deal of room for luggage in the back.
Under way, the Grandis Warrior has a nice growly sound to the engine and on the bends, it doesn’t lean over quite as far as some of the rivals, giving the driver confidence to push on at speed. However, as with the Lancer, the power steering is set far too light and there is precious little feel to the wheel.
Engine size (litres): 2.4 man/auto
0-62 (secs): 10.0/11.7
Top speed (mph): 124/118
Power (bhp/rpm): 162/6,000
CO2 (g/km): 237
Comb fuel (mpg): 30.1/28.2
Price OTR (£): 22,499/23,499
Service intervals: 9,000 miles