The Chinese car market is the bigger elephant in the other room. We often speak of the size and importance of the Indian car market, but China is different. For one thing, it is the biggest car market in the world, having overtaken the States more than a decade ago. It also has a bigger focus on luxury and lifestyle vehicles than India.
Both markets have a strong focus on electric mobility, but China also focuses on high-end EVs.
Although India is a global manufacturing hub for the world, China encourages partnership between international and local carmakers. It exports huge volumes but also develops China-specific vehicles. One such partnership is called GMMC (GAC Mitsubishi Motors Co.), between GAC Group, Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi Corporation. It manufactures or has manufactured the Pajero, Outlander, Eclipse Cross and the Mitsubishi ASX.
After that mouthful, we can finally get to the topic at hand. At the recent Auto Shanghai 2021, GMMC introduced the Airtrek SUV concept, seemingly specific to the Chinese market. Apart from the name, the familiar Dynamic Shield nose and the fact that it seems to resemble the Outlander in size and appearance, there is very little else we know about this vehicle.
The company said the Airtrek was based on “the concept of an e-cruising SUV”, founded on three principles: Electric, Expanding and Expressive.
Obviously, Electric refers to its drive, while Expanding appears to how the car will affect the owner’s lifestyle and Expressive refers to yet unknown design style.
Our spies at Shanghai all thought of the Outlander PHEV, based on the Engelberg Tourer, as a guideline to what the Airtrek may be after. They saw the concept and talked to the company reps.
Let’s assume they were right about the Outlander – it certainly ticks the three E’s above – and use that as a basis to guess. The Outlander is a pretty awesome and advanced drive. It is a plug-in hybrid, which means you can charge it from an outside electric source like an EV and use it as such for short trips, like your daily commute, up to 55km. It has two electric motors that drive the front and rear wheels, so it is fully all-wheel drive. Then, should your trip exceed your battery range, it has a 2.4-litre to take you there. It is not a small vehicle by any means, yet it should give you around 6l/100km fuel consumption.
But we don’t yet know if the Airtrek will be a pure EV or a PHEV like the Outlander. Most likely Mitsubishi is using this concept to test the waters, as concepts have done over the last decades. The moment we know, you will know*.