As it gears up for the official world launch of the sixth-generation Triton (set for November, in Thailand), Mitsubishi Motors is also celebrating 40 years of success in the demanding pickup segment of the market.
“Now in its fifth generation, the Mitsubishi Triton currently is our best-selling product in the local market,” says Nic Campbell, general manager at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa.
“When you look back at the development and changes over the past 40 years, it’s clear that each evolution was a direct result of customer needs and the changing perception of utility vehicles. Today, the Triton is an exceptionally luxurious vehicle with the tough ability that customers expect from a pickup, and it’s easy to see why it remains so popular with South African customers,” he continues.
Here’s a little history:
First Generation, 1978
The original Mitsubishi one-tonne pickup made its appearance in 1978. It was developed to provide a one-tonne carrying capacity with rugged reliability, but easy-to-drive nature.
The styling took its cues from the compact Galant sedan, with a long nose, an air-dam skirt and four round headlights. It was powered by 2,0 and 2,6-litre petrol engines for North America and 1,6-litre petrol engine for Japan and other regions. A 2,3-litre diesel engine was available for general exports.
The chassis was sophisticated for a commercial vehicle too, with front disc brakes, double wishbone/coil springs for the front suspension, and leaf springs and rigid axle in the rear. Its wide 1 360-mm front track and long wheelbase of 2 780 mm ensured superior driving stability.
Mitsubishi Motors built on its many years of experience of building Jeeps by adding a 4×4 version to the range in 1980.
Second Generation, 1986
There was a full model change in March 1986. A wider variety of configurations were offered, including three body types: Single Cab, Club Cab, Double Cab; short and long body styles available for Single Cab; two and four-wheel drive (4WD) drivetrain options; 2,0 and 2,6-litre petrol engines, and 2,5-litre diesel engine.
A total of approximately 1 146 000 second-generation models were produced in the Ohe Plant in Japan, and the Laem Chabang Plant in Thailand.
Third Generation, 1995
Production of the third generation began in November 1995 in Thailand. The interior and exterior designs were fully revised and reflected the customer need to have a pickup truck that could also be used for personal use.
The model was positioned as a roomy five-seater that was comfortable and capable enough for both recreational and commercial use.
Power and off-road performance were improved with a 2,5-litre intercooled turbodiesel engine and features such as “Easy Select 4WD”. Safety and equipment levels were also enhanced to match the expectations of buyers who were used to passenger car levels of comfort.
A total of approximately 1 046 000 vehicles were produced.
Fourth Generation, 2005
In August 2005 there was a full model change that was exported in stages to about 150 countries worldwide, solidifying this vehicle’s importance in Mitsubishi Motors’s global strategy.
The fourth generation was developed to exceed the basic performance requirements of pickup trucks in terms of economy, durability and reliability. It had to have the highest quality standards to further strengthen the brand on a global scale. It also had to not just be a commercial-use vehicle, but meet a wide variety of customer needs.
A newly developed diesel engine with a direct-injection common rail produced high power while achieving low fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and noise levels. Participation in the Dakar Rally and other races built up its superior off-road 4WD performance and highlighted the Triton’s capabilities.
The newly designed body also achieved the highest level of crashworthiness in its class at the time.
A total of 1 423 000 of the fourth generation Triton were produced.
5th Generation, 2014
In 2014, the fifth-generation Mitsubishi Triton further refined the concept to meet with increasingly varying needs of customers: improved usability and durability for commercial use, a sporty feel that is both easy and fun to drive, quality that gives customer satisfaction and comfort for every passenger.
The 2,5-litre turbodiesel and 2,4-litre petrol engines have been improved and are offered alongside a newly developed 2,4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel, which delivers superior performance while achieving top-level fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.
The 4WD systems continue to develop too. The Easy Select 4WD system has three positions to provide optimum traction to match road conditions, and the Super Select 4WD-II has an electronic actuator.
Over the years, Mitsubishi Motor’s famous pickup has been sold under different badges across various markets: from LP200 to Forte, Colt and Triton, but it has always had a profound effect on Mitsubishi Motors.
The first- and second-generation platforms were produced mainly at Mitsubishi Motors Ohe Plant. From the third generation and onward, production has been concentrated in the Laem Chabang Plant in Thailand, from where they are exported worldwide. It is now Mitsubishi Motors’ biggest factory, producing about 400 000 vehicles per year.
The South African launch date of the sixth-generation Triton is yet to be confirmed.