Mitsubishi has announced plans to wind down production of the Lancer Evolution performance sedan.
According to Japan's Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (Automotive News Daily), Mitsubishi will cease building the tenth iteration of its halo sports sedan, the Lancer Evolution X, by the end of this year. Sales since the model's 1992 debut have totaled 92,000 domestically and 154,000 worldwide.
The Lancer Evolution was created when engineers from Mitsubishi's rally program shoehorned the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel-drive system from the Galant VR-4 into a compact Lancer model (sold in the US as the fourth-generation Mirage). With performance befitting of sports cars costing tens of thousands more, the "Evo," as it came to be known, instantly garnered a dedicated enthusiast following at home.
Mitsubishi never intended it for export, but tales of its sport sedan bona fides soon spread beyond Japan's borders, feeding a booming gray market in the UK and Australia by the mid-1990s. From 1996-99, the Lancer Evolution won a then-unprecedented four consecutive World Rally Championship titles, further cementing its performance credentials. By the time the Lancer Evolution VIII was finally offered for sale in the US in 2003, it had already developed a rabid enthusiast fan base thanks to its superb spec sheet.
The automaker acknowledged the model's role as an image leader for the brand when performance was a key component of its marketing plans. However, in the face of poor sales in recent years, Mitsubishi has decided to rebrand itself as an eco-friendly car company. As such, it intends to concentrate its resources towards developing electric and hybrid vehicles.
It has been reported that a future Mitsubishi flagship might utilize a hybrid-electric drivetrain. However, it will likely not be based on the Renault Megane platform that will underpin the next-generation Lancer, and thus the Evolution name may be dropped altogether. In any case, it is believed that such a car would be at least two years away from production.