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Mitsubishi insiders want next-generation Montero

The company needs to make a business case for one, first.

Mitsubishi stopped selling the Montero in the United States in 2006, but the nameplate lives on in other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia. It's one of the oldest SUVs in its segment, and Mitsubishi is beginning to look into designing a replacement.

The current, fourth-generation Montero (pictured) -- the one we never got in America -- made its debut in 2006. It hasn't been replaced yet because the firm is trying to make a solid business case for a next-generation model. That's easier said than done. Safety and emissions regulations are getting tighter around the globe, and the cost of developing a true off-roader with seven seats is going up. At the same time, consumers are gradually abandoning the segment as they flock towards more car-like crossovers.

"It's something that our engineers really want to do, but we've got to make sure we have the right business case, and that segment is naturally shrinking due to emissions regulations. We need to make sure that when we do something, we do it properly and it's future-proofed," Trevor Mann, Mitsubishi's chief operating officer, told British magazine Autocar in a recent interview.

Mitsubishi's best solution may be to find a partner with whom to split the development costs. And, now that it's under the same umbrella as Nissan, it has access -- at least theoretically -- to the body-on-frame architecture that underpins the Patrol/Armada. These bones would give it the ruggedness it needs to live up to its heritage.

Mann previously hinted a next-generation Montero would be an ideal candidate to receive a plug-in hybrid powertrain. This would bring it in line with Mitsubishi's focus on electrification while keeping fuel economy in check.

It doesn't require a tremendous stretch of imagination to picture a new Montero positioned as a budget-friendly, adventure-ready alternative to the next-generation Land Rover Defender. Mitsubishi is one of the few companies in the world with enough credibility to tackle to the Defender; Jeep is another one.

Considering that the fifth-generation Montero hasn't been approved yet, we'd guess it's at least two or three years away from making its debut. We may not see it until the 2022 model year -- assuming it comes back to the United States.

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