Mitsubishi Express reborn: Australian future for Renault Trafic-based van

Mitsubishi Australia asked for a van, so alliance partner Renault will provide a rebadged Trafic out of France.

Mitsubishi Motors has signed a letter of intent to source rebadged Renault Trafic vans out of France, to sell in Australia and New Zealand, with an expected launch time as soon as next year.

Naturally, speculation suggests that this model could mark a return of the well-known, but defunct since 2013, Mitsubishi Express. It’ll certainly satisfy the company’s desire in Australia to launch more commercial vehicles and broaden its offerings to its fleet customers.

Reports came out of Europe last night that Renault would create vans for its global alliance partners Nissan and Mitsubishi, respectively at its Maubeuge and Sandouville plants. The Nissan NV250 will be a reworked Kangoo, and the Mitsubishi a reworked Trafic.

We had a chance to speak with Mitsubishi Motors global COO Trevor Mann this morning for some clarification. Remarkably, he said the deal was done after requests from Mitsubishi Australia and NZ, which is a rare example of local clout on a global scale.

“Just after Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan Alliance, it was a strong request from the team in Australia to have more of a LCV offering and Renault, our partners, are extremely strong in Euro vans sold globally. It was an obvious request,” he said.

“You know, I’m not a huge fan of cross-badging, but on LCVs it doesn’t matter so much; the industry is full of cross-badges because you don’t necessarily buy a van because of the badge, but because of the service, relationship with the dealer, in a fleet pool, et cetera.

“So we made the request to Renault and at the moment we’ve signed a letter of intent, so we fully intend to do this. It’ll be based on Trafic and be made in Sandouville, and will come to Australia as soon as we dot the I’s and cross the T’s.”

2020, we asked? “If I get my way, it’ll be sooner,” Mann answered.

The Renault Trafic has been quite successful in Australia, competing for third spot in its class against the Volkswagen Transporter and Ford Transit Custom, and behind the unstoppable Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad staples.

Power comes from two 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engines, with one and two turbos respectively. All are front-wheel drive, and there are various body lengths, plus a Crew Van derivative.

One potential snag is the current lack of an automatic transmission. French ideas of what constitutes a van don’t always align with Australian buyers’ taste for automatics, which make up 70 per cent of van sales.

But we know Renault is working on an auto ‘box for late 2019, which we presume will filter into the new Mitsubishi ‘Express’ at some point.

Another big advantage that Mitsubishi will have over Renault is its large fleet partner and parts network, and bigger dealer spread. Presumably this new ‘Express’ will have a better crash rating than the old one-star model, too…

Hey van buyers, keen on a new Mitsubishi Express?