By on December 4, 2012
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Mitsubishi’s commitment to the American market seems to hinge on two crossovers, one plug-in, and a hilariously undersized A-segment car. The plan is so absurd that it may have a chance of succeeding.

Hans Greimel of Automotive News sat down with Osamu Masuko, head of Mitsubishi Motors, to discuss his plans for the United States. In the wake of Suzuki’s departure from America, all eyes are on Mitsubishi to be the next one to bounce from the USA. Mitsubishi is targeting 55,000 units for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013. After that, it’s 80,000 units or bust.

While Mitsubishi lost the Endeavor, Eclipse and Galant this past year, there is new product in the pipeline. The Outlander Sport will be built in Mitsubishi’s Illinois factory, with a view to exporting it to markets like Russia. Meanwhile, the upcoming Outlander and its plug-in sibling should end up as Mitsubishi’s core product, sitting alongside the aging Lancer and the super Evolution, which somehow has managed to hang on.

While Mitsubishi is banking on the Outlander to help it achieve a medium-term goal of 100,000 sales annually, one car that won’t make a big splash is the Mirage A-segment car that Mitsubishi has pledged to import. Maskuo told AN that monthly sales of 600 units may end up as Mitsubishi’s target, and due to that, it may only be sold in certain regions. An EV may be part of the plan as well, but Maskuo is concious of the failure of the all-electric i, and the capabilities of a Mirage EV, stating

As for EVs, it’s true, not everything went according to plan. But that’s not to say that EV technology was rejected. This technology is a must and indispensible for developed economies.

Mitsubishi still has to contend with an ancient, uncompetitive Lancer and nothing to replace the Galant. And that may not be such a bad thing. The compact and mid-size segments are about as cutthroat as you can get, and it’s highly unlikely that anything they field would be good enough to steal sales away from the outstanding entries fielded by every other OEM.

Instead, Mitsubishi is left with a slightly odd, pseudo-niche lineup. Perhaps the Outlander and its plug-in variant will take off. Sales of the Spark have been stronger than expected, and the Mirage may find itself duking it out with the hot-selling Chevy. The odds are not at all in Mitsubishi’s favor, and there’s a good chance their plan could fail. But they deserve some credit for doubling down on their strengths, rather than just fielding more half-assed “me too” product.

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21 Comments on “Mitsubishi’s Crazy Plan For America...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    Mitsubishi should take a page from the Subaru playbook and make all of their cars and SUV’s with standard all-wheel-drive. Subaru sold something like 28,000 vehicles last month, up a whopping 60% from last year. Mitsu sold an underwhelming 3,600 vehicles, down 4%. This is a niche that Mitsubishi could successfully play in. The only reason they haven’t pulled out yet is that plant they own in Normal, Illinois. Unlike Suzuki, it would cost Mitsu a fortune to shutter the dealer network AND the plant.

    • 0 avatar
      tatracitroensaab

      This could work for the SUVs, but what an AWD super compact?????? actually that sounds ridiculously amazing, I bet that they would be the only one

      • 0 avatar
        jco

        actually the Mitsubishi I (which we get as the electric MIEV) is a conventional kei car in Japan and is available with AWD. as are many other kei-class cars. so awd in a tiny package is something that exists.

        the first gen Toyota bB AWD would have awesome to have here.

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        Subaru sells the A-class Justy in Japan. I think it was sold here briefly many years ago. Don’t know if it’s FWD or AWD though. Would give Mitsu a distinction in the market. AWD Mirage.

      • 0 avatar
        kokomokid

        srogers,
        You can have AWD available without making it mandatory. Would current Impreza wagon buyers go for a Cruze sedan, just because they sold FWD Imprezas if they did so? I rather doubt it.

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      Subaru should end their obsession with mandatory AWD. If they did so, I might consider one of their cars sometime. I kind of like the Impreza wagon, but I don’t want, or need the extra weight and complexity of AWD.

      As far as Mitsubishi, they should probably follow Suzuki out of the U.S. market, though I’m sure it would be tough to find a buyer for the factory.

      • 0 avatar
        joeb-z

        Didn’t that obsession end with the rear wheel drive BRZ? It is kind of amazing to see the Subaru dealers doing fine in SoCal with the all-wheel drive cars.

      • 0 avatar
        kokomokid

        Yeah, the BRZ is RWD, but that seems to the only place the obsession ends. All indications are that mandatory AWD will remain on the other products.

        I don’t see many Subarus, or many dealers in the “space coast” area of Florida.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        It depends where you live. I just bought a new Subaru last week, if it didn’t have Subaru’s excellent AWD system (i.e., if it was 2WD or a “slip & grip” type AWD), I wouldn’t have even considered them.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        Without AWD, Subaru would lose their reputation as being “different” from mainstream competitors. The boxer engine is a non-factor to the majority of the mass of compact car and CUV buyers. Subaru would likely have little more success than Mitsubishi if they lost their AWD cred.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        kokomokid…

        They already did. It’s called the “BRZ”……

        ———–

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “But that’s not to say that EV technology was rejected.”

    But it was, Masuko-kun. I guarantee you if the i were sold with a conventional engine – either alongside the MiEV or on its own – and sold at a bargain price, it would have sold far better.

    The tech WAS rejected because it cost too much and offered too little.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Selling the ICE i here would be a great idea, it would essentially be a real new Beetle and give the Smart ForTwo a real run for it’s money too. A tiny city car with a mid rear engine and either RWD or AWD, plus 4 doors and room for 4. Of course, doing a straight currency conversion, the price in Japan is like $15,000, which is probably way more than most Americans would want to pay for a car like this. If they could get the price under 10k, they’d have a winner.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m holding out for the return of the Shogun/Pajero/Montero. Except call it something else so people don’t think of the horrible Montero Sport.

    I want a 2-door Shogun!

    • 0 avatar

      What was so horrible about Montero Sport? It hung along the “new” Montero pricisely beause it met demand that all-IFS platform did not. Remember that it all happened before Sequoia and Expedition had 4 corner IFS. Before Pathfinder, too. Montero happened ahead of its time and quickly migrated into uber-expensive, Landcruiser-like halo SUV.

  • avatar
    Skink

    Great video. I laughed, I cried, I learned something.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    It has been said over-and-over, in many forums, that Mitsubishi needs to define an image and sell it in a marketing message. The time to start the image make-over and PR campaign is now, while we await fresh “goodies” in the pipeline. Mitsubishi: Make us want to come in for a test drive. Give us something (compelling product, ownership experience, perhaps a tangible or intanglible benefit) that we can’t get from 10 other competing brands.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Mitsubishi is nto short on technology. They were probably the first to market with direct injection. Their AYC system in the Evolution was way ahead of its time and they also have EV and hybrid technology. What they need to do is focus on the niches. For example- nobody has made a hybrid minivan yet- Mitsubishi could jump right in with that.

  • avatar
    Monty

    “Well, it’s so crazy that it just might work!” one of the great cheesy lines in movie history – recycled here for Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    sbunny8

    Mitsubishi also sells the most affordable EV currently for sale in the US, the i. It’s about $8,000 cheaper than a Nissan Leaf. And the Mitsubishi i has an EPA rating of 112 MPGe, more efficient than the Leaf.


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