Mitsubishi Motors Corp. launches the Air Trek small sport/utility vehicle (SUV) in Japan, a vehicle that officials say will bow in North America in about a year.

The Air Trek, a crossover, car-based SUV, was developed out of the ASX concept displayed at the North American International Auto Show last January, which itself was an outgrowth of the SUW (sport/utility wagon) Active, first shown at the Tokyo auto show in 1999.

The vehicle, which comes in both 2-wheel-drive and 4wd, can be equipped with either a 2L or 2.5L GDI engine and mated to an automatic transmission. The base model is priced at less than $16,570. The North American version, also built in Japan, will sport sheet metal and engine changes, says Mike Krebs, director of product planning at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc.

MMSA earlier in September launched its Lancer compact car, which replaces the Mirage, in the U.S. through a multimillion-dollar ad campaign. The automaker has targeted 2002 Lancer sales of 64,000 units. For 2003, it will unveil an all-new Galant, which officials say will be much larger than the current version, in order to compete solidly in the midsize segment.

Krebs says there is a “good chance” the Galant will come off of a platform shared with DaimlerChrysler AG's midsize sedans and confirms that platform consolidation is a main objective of the recent equity tie-up. DC holds a controlling stake in Mitsubishi.