It’s 1978, and the world is changing. Space Invaders spreads across the globe and launches the videogame industry which displaces pinball in arcades. The first automated cellular phone network is being built in Japan and Superman takes off in cinemas. In Malaysia that year too, as the country turns 21, television viewers see broadcasts in colour for the first time.
And it was also in 1978 that Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) introduced its first 1-ton pick-up truck, a vehicle which would provide reliable and durable transport for 4.7 million people in the next 40 years. When developing the first pick-up, MMC engineers followed the design brief that called for a vehicle that could handle all types of roads (and even where there were no roads), anywhere on the planet. It had to have outstanding reliability, durability and payload performance, with high levels of drivability, utility, and comfort.
The first models were named FORTE in Japan but export versions were sold as the L200 or simply, Mitsubishi Truck. From the very beginning, the FORTE was engineered to provide tough, dependable transport for people and goods. Its 1-ton carrying capacity and easy-to-drive character quickly made it a popular choice in many markets, especially where the terrain was rough.
The only body option was a single cab with power from a 2-litre petrol engine, with a 2.6-litre option for North America and 1.6-litre engine for Japan and for other regions. A 2.3-litre diesel engine was available for general exports.
To ensure customers could go even further in the toughest conditions, MMC drew on its 4-wheel-drive heritage (it produced a prototype passenger car with 4×4 in 1935) by adding a 4×4 version to the range in 1980. This became the foundation for modern Mitsubishi 4×4 vehicles, leading directly to the Pajero (also known as the Montero and Shogun in some countries) which was among the first of the modern generation of 4×4 SUVs.
Besides names like Strada (from the second generation), the pick-up model was also renamed Triton for the 4th generation in many markets and sales continued to grow, contributing to MMC’s business significantly. The first and second generations were mainly produced in Japan but the third-generation model, introduced in 1995, has been concentrated in the Laem Chabang Plant in Thailand. This is now MMC’s biggest factory, producing about 400,000 vehicles, and is the global hub for the Triton model which is exported all over the world.
The 5th generation was launched towards the end of 2014 and to give customers choices to suit their needs, it is available in three basic body configurations – Single Cab, Double-door Club Cab, and Double Cab. Petrol and turbodiesel engines are available with the 2.4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel having an all-aluminium design. It was the first pick-up here to have such an engine, the innovation joining a string of firsts that Mitsubishi pick-ups have recorded in Malaysia – first with an automatic transmission, and first with a 3.2-litre engine. The current generation, launched here in 2015, also introduced to the segment passenger car features like the engine pushstart button, paddle shifters and bi-xenon headlamps.
Drivetrain options have always been 2WD and 4WD but the latest generation of the Triton also has a Super Select 4WD-II system with an electronic actuator. The advanced 4WD system provides the driver with the confidence to travel over any type of terrain conditions because it can adapt the vehicle’s characteristic to different surfaces.
Although pick-ups and other commercial vehicles usually have a product cycle of around 10 years, it seems that MMC may not wait till 2024 to launch the next generation. Given that it is now part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance (by virtue of Nissan having a 34% stake in MMC), product development cycles may be changed to be synchronised among the three brands.
Visit www.mitsubishi-motors.com.my to know more about the Triton and where to test one.