Proton, the automaker formerly owned by the Malaysian government, made their name building and exporting Mitsubishi cast-offs. Indeed, they didn’t engineer their own car until 2000 (the Waja) and continued selling rehashed Mitsubishis into the new century. One of these was the M21, which poses the question: would you buy a brand new example of a discontinued car if the price was low?
The M21 was based on the 1991-96 Mitsubishi Lancer (Mirage), and arrived on the market shortly after a new generation of Lancer launched. Proton’s first coupe was almost identical visually to the superseded Lancer coupe. Fortunately, it had some minor specification tweaks to keep it fresh, like a stronger DOHC 16V version of the Mitsubishi 1.8 four with an extra 18 horsepower (to a total of 134 hp). There were also sporty Recaro bucket seats and full power accessories. Evidently, Mitsubishi hadn’t improved the new Lancer much because Which Car? magazine scored the two cars almost identically in a comparison test.
New and fresh sells, especially in the compact coupe market. Thus, despite annual price cuts the M21 sold poorly – even by Proton’s dismal standards – and was discontinued in 2000. It had a gutsy engine and competitive handling, but its looks were dated inside and out.
Amusingly, the Malaysian-market M21 (badged Putra) was axed in 2001 but briefly reintroduced just for 2004 to use up remaining stocks. This made the 2004 Putra a brand new version of a discontinued car that was a brand new version of a discontinued car.
Other brands like Chevrolet have also continued producing previous-generation models, selling them alongside the new cars. So, I pose two questions: firstly, would you buy a brand new superseded model instead of its replacement? Secondly, would you buy that same car if it was built under license by a budget automaker?