FAST Autoworld Philippines Corp., (FAPC) the local dealer of Mitsubishi vehicles in Visayas and Mindanao, expects to grow a minimum of 15 percent this year with the launching of the all-new Montero Sport despite the sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) scandal the sport utility vehicle (SUV) brand is facing.

Compared to 2014, FAPC grew by seven percent last year, driven by sales of the Mitsubishi Mirage, which account for 32 percent of their overall vehicle sales.

Rene Poro, FAPC (Cebu) assistant vice-president for operations, said the company remains unfazed by the allegations and that they are optimistic consumers will continue to patronize Mitsubishi vehicles, particularly the Montero Sport.

“These are just temporary setbacks. A lot of our users are convinced that there is nothing wrong (with the vehicle). We believe that these are just negative publicity, especially that we are about to officially bring to the market the all-new Montero Sport this month,” said Poro.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will require a third party investigation on the cause of SUA incidents. The agency plans to hire foreign experts to investigate the SUA cases, since the country does not have a laboratory to conduct a full-vehicle check-up.

Twenty-four complaints were filed before the DTI on the alleged SUA of Montero Sport units.

“The controversy has affected our sales a little. However, we remain strong and positive because we are launching the new model,” said Poro, adding that they still have 100 units inventory of the previous model of Montero Sport. He said they will continue to sell the older model alongside the new one because of its wide price gap.

Last Friday, FAPC held a preview of the new generation Montero Sport at the SM Seaside City. The upgraded vehicle will be officially unveiled in Manila this January 24.

Prior to its official launch, Poro reported FAPC has already logged 164 orders of the new model, of which 60 percent come from Cebu.

He noted that one of the most contested segments in the car market right now is the midsize diesel sport utility vehicle (SUV), which Montero Sport continues to dominate.

“We are more aggressive this time. In fact, we target to sell 550 units in three months’ time or a sustaining volume of 80 units per month,” said Poro. FAPC’s dealership covers Central and Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

The all-new Montero Sport is Euro 4 emission standard compliant and is powered by a 2.4 liter CRDi turbodiesel (4N15) with MIVEC rated at 178hp and 430 Nm.

This seven-passenger SUV comes in seven colors and is priced from P1.5 million to P1.9 million.

The all-new Montero Sport is equipped with improved safety measures like front collision mitigation system, blind spot warning system, seven airbags, hill descent control, hill start assist, active stability and traction control, trailer stability control, electronic parking brake, antilock brakes, and electronic brake-force distribution.

This model was also recently rated a five-star safety rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (Ancap), an independent body that tests safety of motor vehicles sold in and around the Australia and Asian regions.