Don't let its current line-up fool you: Mitsubishi is not giving up on selling cars in the U.S. In a recent interview, Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko has declared the North American car market too important to give up, and that the key to turning around the automaker's image in the U.S. will be a new focus on fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs, with a Mitsubishi Montero Plug-In Hybrid leading the charge.

Known globally as the Mitsubishi Pajero, Masuko said in his recent Automotive News interview that a plug-in Montero could be what it takes for Mitsubishi's American operations to get into the black. Long before Mitsubishi made a name for itself selling performance cars like the Lancer Evolution, SUVs and pickups were the Japanese automaker's bread and butter – they still are, in fact, with pickups and the Mitsubishi Pajero being the company's best-sellers worldwide. With America friendly to the idea of pickups and SUVs, Masuko believes that the Montero Plug-In Hybrid could be just what Mitsubishi's U.S. lineup needs to turn things around.

When the Mitsubishi Montero left the U.S. back in 2006, it was powered by a 215-hp 3.8-liter V-6 putting the power down through a standard four-wheel drive system. When the Montero returns, we expect it to look a lot like the Mitsubishi Concept GC-PHEV that was revealed at the recent Tokyo Motor Show. The GC-PHEV is an edgy-looking SUV powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 that drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and an electric motor in the front, giving the SUV four-wheel drive and off-road capability.

According to Masuko, the Montero Plug-In Hybrid could conceivably be joined by both gas and diesel versions. The Montero won't be Mitsubishi's only plug-in hybrid if it ends up in the U.S. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was revealed earlier this year, and the next-generation Evo is rumored to be powered by a combination of a small turbocharged I-3 and electric motors.

Source: Automotive News (subscription required)