VANCOUVER (CP) — Mitsubishi’s timing could hardly have been better. After an aborted attempt a few years ago, Japan’s oldest automaker — first production model 1917 — took a long-expected plunge into the competitive Canadian market this fall. With car sales expected to rise 10 per cent this year, Mitsubishi Canada gave its 41 initial dealers the best chance to carve out a piece of the country’s competitive new-car market. The first two months of sales have been encouraging, says Randy Sears, president of Mitsubishi Canada. Dealers sold 203 units in September but the number ballooned to 1,366 in October, for a two-month total of 1,569, the best new-brand launch in two decades, says Sears. ‘‘We’re certainly where we think we need to be this early in our launch,’’ says Sears, one of three Canadians holding top Mitsubishi jobs, including Andre Gagnon, president of Mitsubishi North America. Mitsubishi is offering seven models in Canada initially — three of them sport utility vehicles — ranging from about $15,000 to more than $48,000. More than 40 per cent of sales so far have been its Lancer compact sedan — in line with Mitsubishi’s expectations. Ironically, Mitsubishi retreated from plans to set up shop in Canada in the 1990s after being warned it didn’t have a marketable compact at the time. More than half of all Canadian passenger car sales are in the small-to-medium-sized segments. The second-best seller has been the sporty Eclipse Coupe, which came as a surprise to Sears. ‘‘The Eclipse. . . is probably the best vehicle that represents Mitsubishi image and styling,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s our halo car if you will — this thing is just hot, hot, hot.’’ Eventually, though, Sears expects the small Outlander SUV, which competes against models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, to be its No. 2 seller here. Mitsubishi’s dealerships mostly are clustered in the big urban centres. Sears, who spent 20 years with General Motors Canada, expects about one-third of its business to come from import-friendly regions such as Quebec and British Columbia. ‘‘The West has been perhaps a little stronger than we had expected,’’ he says. ‘‘I think there’s a strong Asian population in Vancouver and they’re very familiar with our product.’’ Industry observers agree Mitsubishi’s well-developed product line gives it an advantage as a new entry.