The Truth About Cars » Mitsubishi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:00:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mitsubishi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Diamond Star Redux: FCA’s Getting A New Mid-Size Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/diamond-star-redux-fcas-getting-new-mid-size-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/diamond-star-redux-fcas-getting-new-mid-size-truck/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:11:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916402 The Chrysler/Mitsubishi pairing that brought us the turbocharged DSM twins and the Colt cars is being resurrected in a roundabout way. A new mid-size truck for Fiat’s commercial vehicle lineup will be sourced from Mitsubishi, which will lend FCA the use of its upcoming L200 truck. Automotive News is reporting that the new truck will, […]

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The Chrysler/Mitsubishi pairing that brought us the turbocharged DSM twins and the Colt cars is being resurrected in a roundabout way. A new mid-size truck for Fiat’s commercial vehicle lineup will be sourced from Mitsubishi, which will lend FCA the use of its upcoming L200 truck.

Automotive News is reporting that the new truck will, of course, not be sold in North America, and will be built in Thailand for the European and Latin American markets. Mitsubishi and Chrysler have already agreed to sell a rebadged version of the Mirage sedan in Mexico, for sale as a Chrysler product.

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Vellum Venom: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:04:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=898658   Design School forces considerations outside of a student’s artistic comfort zone: a unique price, demographic, or geography for starters. Just don’t present a pragmatic design based in sociocultural fact: a conventional sedan for the Indian market–isolating the wealthy from their hired help and their untouchable luggage—was a fantastically stupid mistake. Cultural and profit-minded relevance […]

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Design School forces considerations outside of a student’s artistic comfort zone: a unique price, demographic, or geography for starters. Just don’t present a pragmatic design based in sociocultural fact: a conventional sedan for the Indian market–isolating the wealthy from their hired help and their untouchable luggage—was a fantastically stupid mistake. Cultural and profit-minded relevance aside, that’s the not-so-secret secret I’ve mentioned before in this series. Cars are made under a litany of profit-minded constraints, no matter what they may teach in design school.

And some thrive in their design constraints.

1

A slot. Just a slot: no big stupid Audi-esque maw, no poseur Aston Martin grin, no bullshit. The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES is a snub-nosed hatchback working hard to reduce frontal area, with a .28 drag coefficient to boot. It took an unappealing template and made it work with a modicum of functional style and elegant interplay between elements and cut lines.

If only there was an ever-so-slight curve (down into the bumper) to the hood+fascia cut line.

2

Respect the slot…as it slices into the lower bumper.

3

No love for the badge so big that the hood cut line must bend to clear it. This is one excruciating element in modern automotive design, a Britches-Busting Badge dominating many an automotive face for no reason.

Not necessarily Mitsubishi’s fault, but the natural contours of the body must come first.

3_aventador

Oh Lamborghini, why must you bring credence to this abomination of a branding exercise?

5

Several harmonious elements, all with a “flow” that (attempts to) draw your eyes to a long and sleek form. Like how the grille slot’s earth-bound vanishing points are shared with the lower grille. The Mirage’s lower bumper has devil horns at each corner, arcing to the wheels. Then the fog light’s recess with upward slash into the Mirage’s side.   And finally, hood bulges that mimic the headlight’s contours as it flows to the windshield.

6

Transition to the fender: where’d the flow go? Small and cheap cars wind up with bug-eyed headlights on a stump-like face. All the flowy goodness from the last photo is gone in the name of compact car proportioning.

7

After experiencing these in my 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia in dawn/dusk conditions, the gentle glow of the headlight assembly when in parking light only mode is cool. Glad this bulb made it into the US-spec Mirage.

8

There’s a fake bezel and a fake(?) cylindrical housing inside the bumper’s fog light insert. Looked better before I said that, right?

 

9

The lower grille needs a Prancing Horse emblem à la Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Mostly to be preposterous, but also to reward the clean integration worthy of more expensive metal: a nice contrast to the uber-subtle slot just north.

10

Too bad there isn’t one texture, instead of false teeth, small rectangles and larger rectangles. A dark-colored bolt would be nice too.

11

Here’s where the small car headlights really stand out. Even with the dimensional constraints, kudos to Mitsubishi for stamping out a reasonably bullet-nosed schnoz for such a short (length) and tall (height) machine.

12

Here’s a tidy cowl area, with the requisite windshield-to-fender modesty panel in black plastic. If only the hood extended further back to (presumably) reduce that panel’s size…and still actually open.

12_1

Large gaps around the windshield somewhat disappoint, but the metal work and paint quality remain respectable.

12_2

I used the term “honest” quite often in my review of this machine, no better proof than this antenna.

13

The repeater light and its subtle curve can’t take your eyes away from the DLO FAIL for long. Too bad the fender to A-pillar line can’t merge with the door to A-pillar line without losing the Mirage’s faux-sleekosity. (i.e. push the door cut line forward, making it rather boxy)

13_1

Gray rocker covers are unexpected when exposed unibody metal construction are acceptable for a cheap car. I was expecting blue-painted folds, creases and spot welds! Nice.

14

There’s a reassuring linearity and solidarity in these fast yet upright lines. The B-pillar’s black paint is a nice touch, since the belt line rubber demands a harsh transition from window to door frame. Compare this to something zany like the Nissan Cube.

14_1

A dash of tumblehome evident when opening the door: not bad for a small car that’s surprisingly roomy inside.

15_1

Tighter and more uniform panel gaps wouldn’t hurt.

16

The Mirage’s DLO FAIL free rear doors and fixed window free glass was a nice touch at this price. Also note the window’s outline empathizes with the door cut line and the hatchback’s outline.

17

The roofline has a Prius-like, teardrop fall. If it wasn’t for the DLO fail, there’d be an elegant flow from door to roof, to B-pillar. The strong bend above the door handle along with its softer partner below adds visual excitement to an otherwise plump and forgettable form.

18

While not as pretty as the close up you saw two photos ago, the upward belt line matches the trajectory of the two sheet metal bends below. The door cut line is on point with the B-pillar, elegantly encasing the rear door.

19

Step back and it’s still a cheap 5-door subcompact. No matter what!

20

Wait…are those flush mounted, non pull-lever type door handles? My design pet peeve hurdle cleared, the replacement of a conventional key lock for the ES-grade Mirage’s keyless system is logical, ergonomic and cost-effective.

21

A cheap car gets away with this: plus the passenger’s key lock makes sense if the transmitter fails harder than the DLO on a Chevy Cruze.

22

Man, that’s a huge gas door. Except it’s a normal-sized door on a small car with a seriously short overhang. If only there was a more elegant attachment point for the wraparound rear bumper. Considering this car’s intended market (crowded streets in third-world nations) the wraparound bumpers are more than mandatory.

23

The Mirage’s 14” wheels are static and uninspiring, except not: wheels this small are a treat if you’re sick of rubber band side walls from ill-proportioned mad-tite rims.

24

Another pet peeve: those fake slots do no favors to the wheel’s design. Either have real negative area, or make a flat casting.

25

Much like the Dodge Viper coupe’s helmet friendly roof design, the Mirage has little dimples for the hinges. It’s acceptable when viewed with spoiler’s speed bumps. The huge panel gaps, however…

26

It’s a rare occasion when a car actually needs a spoiler to complete the look, and the Mirage needs it more than a Plymouth Superbird!

27

Too many static elements: strong and steady cut line, downward sloping wedge from the quarter panel to the bumper and another lump that expands toward the bumper’s center section. These lumps aren’t structurally relevant, get a rounder bumper cover to mimic the front end’s bullet look instead.

27_1

Yup, round it off. (EDIT: enlightened reader SamTheGeek mentioned this is for aero, contributing to the Mirage’s fantastic numbers. So nevermind.)

28

The Fallout Shelter reflector logo in the deeply sunken housing brings a smile to one’s face.

29

The Venn Diagram worthy tail light cluster looks outdated by today’s standards. But compare the Mirage’s eyes to the cyborg (no pun intended) look of a Chevy Spark, maybe old and boring ain’t so bad.

29_1

The plasti-chrome emblem was unexpected: no cheapie vinyl-jelly decal? While the bumper’s transition to the hatchback is pleasant enough, the hatchback itself could benefit from pushing the tail light “back” to create an uninterrupted flow from the base of the door to the crest of the tail light.

What was that phrase about the shortest distance between two points? Or just a gentle curve instead. Don’t fight the flow!

29_2

Oh wow, another unconventional handle! And that cute little button again! Replicating a design saves money, and these bits are far from offensive the third time ‘round.

29_3

Imagine if the hatchback did indeed move in a solid, singular sweep from its base to the top of the tail light. No matter, console yourself with the clean lines introduced in the wiper arm.

29_4

The spoiler sure has a well-integrated CHMSL, too bad it isn’t red like the tail lights.

30

Again, problems emblematic with the brand: the logo is too big. Uncomfortably close to the handle and the transition to the rear glass, logos must stop dominating vehicle design. And imagine if the hatchback had a smoother line so it wouldn’t play second fiddle to the tail lights!

Yet here’s proof that fundamentally good, honest design lies in the most unexpected places. While the Mirage’s sins are unacceptable at a higher price, these are white lies and not all out deceit. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine liking the Mirage to this extent. But whatever, life is full of contrasts.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer, Wait, I Mean Plymouth Colt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1989-mitsubishi-lancer-wait-mean-plymouth-colt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1989-mitsubishi-lancer-wait-mean-plymouth-colt/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=889946 At the same time Chrysler was selling heavily evolved— if that’s the word— Simcas, you could walk into the same showrooms that sold Turismos and Omnis and buy yourself a badge-engineered Mitsubishi Lancer. By the late 1980s, Mitsubishi itself was selling these cars (badged as Mirages), which meant that car shoppers could choose between three […]

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08 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAt the same time Chrysler was selling heavily evolved— if that’s the word— Simcas, you could walk into the same showrooms that sold Turismos and Omnis and buy yourself a badge-engineered Mitsubishi Lancer. By the late 1980s, Mitsubishi itself was selling these cars (badged as Mirages), which meant that car shoppers could choose between three more or less identical versions of the same car, all priced within it-doesn’t-matter distance of one another: Dodge Colt, Plymouth Colt, and Mitsubishi Mirage. The owner of this Plymouth Colt, however, decided that he or she wanted to go all JDM and convert this car into a Lancer (on a shoestring budget).
19 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis would make more sense if you wanted to turn your Q45 into a President or even your Tercel wagon into a Sprinter Carib. Perhaps the association with the Lancer Evolution was the main motivator for the Colt-Lancer switch.
06 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou’ll find one in every car, kid. You’ll see.
12 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAlmost made it to 100,000 miles.
18 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s pretty easy to get the correct badges if you’re motivated.

Future project: convert a Colt into a Cyborg!

01 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1989 Mitsubishi Lancer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Utilities, Automakers Collaborate On Smart PHEV Charging Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/utilities-automakers-collaborate-smart-phev-charging-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/utilities-automakers-collaborate-smart-phev-charging-platform/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877810 A combination of one research institute, eight automakers and 15 utilities are working together to create a smart grid charging platform for PHEVs. Autoblog Green reports General Motors, BMW, Honda, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Toyota, as well as utilities like Con Edison, Manitoba Hydro and the TVA, are working with the Electric […]

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A combination of one research institute, eight automakers and 15 utilities are working together to create a smart grid charging platform for PHEVs.

Autoblog Green reports General Motors, BMW, Honda, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Toyota, as well as utilities like Con Edison, Manitoba Hydro and the TVA, are working with the Electric Power Research Institute to develop a demand charging platform where the PHEV and the utility exchange information that would reduce the former’s charging during peak hours, then boost it back up during off-peak.

In turn, such a system would allow for increased service reliability for all customers “by helping to mitigate the impact of strain on the grid during peak periods and could contribute to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.” Further, utilities would better be able to manage usage without needing to upgrade their infrastructure, with the savings passed on to their customer base.

As for when this project would get off the ground, no timeline was given as of this time.

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Mitsubishi Vans Are A Delica-te Matter In Canada http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-vans-are-a-delica-te-matter-in-canada/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-vans-are-a-delica-te-matter-in-canada/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:17:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874665 For the first and possibly last time ever, the Mitsubishi Delica was a front page story in a national newspaper, with The Globe and Mail reporting on the “backlash” resulting from these “quirky” cars. The Globe, which is widely regarded as Canada’s paper of record, chose to put the venerable van on page A1, ahead of […]

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For the first and possibly last time ever, the Mitsubishi Delica was a front page story in a national newspaper, with The Globe and Mail reporting on the “backlash” resulting from these “quirky” cars.

The Globe, which is widely regarded as Canada’s paper of record, chose to put the venerable van on page A1, ahead of stories about Syria, ISIS, Boko Haram, Libya and the lack of new manual station wagons.

According to the paper, the Mitsubishi Delica is raising ire, to the point where

“…various provinces and organizations across the country mobilizing to prevent even more of the vehicles from washing up on Canada’s shores…Concerned by the rising number of right-wheel-drive imports, ICBC analyzed crashes involving vehicles like the Delica. In 2009, the agency published its alarming findings: Right-wheel drive vehicles were 40 per cent more likely to be in a crash, and 56 per cent more likely to cause one, than left-wheel-drive vehicles. The driver’s position is believed to make everyday manoeuvres – such as pulling away from a curb or making a left-hand turn – much more dangerous.”

Granted, there are legitimate safety concerns regarding right-hand drive vehicles. For one, the positioning of the headlights must be modified. If they aren’t, then they tend to be angled right into oncoming traffic, which presents an obvious safety hazard.

But there’s also the unspoken fact that many right-hand drive vehicles are performance models like the Nissan Skyline GT-R and Toyota Celica GT-Four. They tend to be purchased by young, testosterone-addled males who are likely to drive them at dangerous speeds on public roads. This is likely to contribute to the alarming crash rates, and a reason why Quebec and Prince Edward Island moved to ban right-hand drive cars earlier in the decade.

There is also pressure from dealer groups and other parties who stand to lose out economically. Although BC’s government-regulated insurer has asked for changes in the rules, they don’t appear to be coming any time soon

Mark Francis, an ICBC manager of provincial vehicle registration who is on a national working group on the issue, says they asked Transport Canada to increase the number of years before a vehicle can be imported from 15 to 25. That number – which would be in line with the United States – would effectively kill the importation of modern Delicas by making it no longer economic for Japanese exporters to warehouse them.

“We’re taking their junk, as we view it,” Mr. Francis says. He adds, however, that the lack of any high-profile crashes involving these vehicles means there’s little incentive to act. “We’re not expecting them to do anything in the near future.”

Surely, the government has a whole host of priorities that are far higher than restricting what a niche group of enthusiasts can import into the country, right?

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Mitsubishi Motors: And Then There Were… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-motors-and-then-there-were/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-motors-and-then-there-were/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:51:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873330     In April, when they released their FY2013 annual results, MMC (Mitsubishi Motors Corp) reported record profits; see Reuters and Automotive News for stories. Don’t get too excited. Mitsubishi Motors’ North American operations are struggling; MMC sells far less than any other Asian car company in North America. The next smallest, Mazda, sold almost […]

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In April, when they released their FY2013 annual results, MMC (Mitsubishi Motors Corp) reported record profits; see Reuters and Automotive News for stories.

Don’t get too excited.

Mitsubishi Motors’ North American operations are struggling; MMC sells far less than any other Asian car company in North America. The next smallest, Mazda, sold almost three and a half times as many vehicles in April 2014. Only six firms sold fewer cars, and of those only Volvo is not a niche luxury marque. (The other five, in decline order of sales, are Jaguar/Land-Rover, Porsche, Tesla, Maserati and Ferrari.)

There are positive signs, with April sales up 46.6% over 2013 and year to date sales up 29%. Only Maserati had a larger increase, but they sold 753 vehicles last year, so that shift represents only a few additional cars. On the other hand, among manufacturers building cars for mainstream customers, Mitsubishi sells the least, so its percentage increase likewise represents only a modest absolute change. Nevertheless Mitsubishi has been improving its North American operation, with net sales up 53% from 2012 to 2013.

Such sales however mean that MMC’s Illinois plant – begun in 1988 as Diamond-Star during the era when Chrysler was a major shareholder – continues to operate in the red. Whether or not Mitsubishi will be able to mount a comeback from the brink of essentially complete failure in North America will depend heavily on the continued expansion of their share and the overall vehicle market. Summer sales are expected to be substantial enough to grow the car market in 2014 over 2013, but that increase won’t be enough to float MMC. Mitsubishi will likely see its sales cannibalized by the other automakers and go the way Suzuki, Isuzu and Daihatsu, Japanese firms that have completely withdrawn from North America. Ultimately it may prove a Saab story.

But their problems aren’t just the US. They’ve pulled out of production in Europe, selling their Nedcar facility. They’ve just restructured debt with their four main creditors – and largest shareholders – who took an average 25% haircut on their preferred shares, to the tune of ¥95 billion (US$950 million). [This is made clear only in their Japanese-language filings.] Perhaps MMC’s shareholders want a tax writeoff and figure their last bailout won’t be recouped. But it also provides MMC with a clean ownership structure that would make a sale easier. Whether anyone would want to buy them is less clear: the company has a stormy history that includes 2 failed sales and an unenviable strategic position. They aren’t unique in this; many other small firms have failed or changed hands in the past half dozen years. But my guess is they’re more likely to provide a Saab story than any of the other Japanese bit players.

Mitsubishi Motors’ origins saddled it with an inefficient structure. During World War II Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) made munitions ranging from warships to the Zero fighter. After 1945 the US Occupation split up the firm into 3 pieces, each of which made different sorts of motor vehicles – three-wheeled cars, scooters, commercial trucks – as they struggled to find things to sell in the grim 1940s and early 1950s. After the Occupation ended MHI’s former pieces merged. The end result was the Mizushima plant in western Japan producing minicars (“kei” cars), Okazaki in central Japan making passenger cars, and Maruko in Tokyo (eastern Japan) making trucks, all within the larger MHI with its industrial machinery, shipbuilding and heavy equipment operations.

Then along came Chrysler, wanting to source small cars in Japan to provide dealers with something to compete against the VW Beetle, which in 1968 sold 600,000 units in the US. (Ford and GM did the same thing, eventually ending up with controlling stakes in Toyo Kogyo – renamed Mazda to echo its brand – and Isuzu.) In 1970 MHI bundled together the three automotive pieces into MMC and set it up as an independent company, with Chrysler to take a 35% stakeholding (which under Japanese corporate law would give them veto rights and hence de facto control). But Chrysler entered one of its periodic crises and couldn’t raise the cash, leaving it with a 15% stake in an unwieldy company. MHI and its bankers remained as the dominant shareholders. While MMC and Chrysler set up Diamond-Star, a joint venture assembly plant in Illinois that opened in 1988, by 1991 Chrysler had sold its share in MMC and various joint ventures.

[An aside: Chrysler purchased its stake in direct contravention to Japanese industrial policy of preventing foreign ownership in the industry – when push came to shove the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI, now MEXT) lacked the clout to make such policies stick, cf. IBM's operations in Japan.]

Then in 2000 DaimlerChrysler bought into MMC, eventually holding 37.5% of the company. But MMC performed poorly, not helped by Daimler’s management, and by 2004 that stake was sold off, with Daimler keeping MMC’s truck division, Fuso, the one piece that made strategic sense for its Asian production base and array of drivetrains.

In the background is a rollercoaster history of a piece with Chrysler. The initial spinoff from MHI coincided with the success of the Galant passenger car in Japan, alongside a good position in the growing “kei” market and in the heavy truck and bus market – which by the way meant that the 3 original production bases remained fiefdoms. MMC then entered the US market, as did the partners in the other Detroit Three alliances. Unlike Isuzu and Mazda, both of which ceased production in the US, MMC has yet to shutter its plant in Illinois, despite low capacity utilization and poor North American sales. Inside Japan sales did well during Japan’s bubble, with MMC introducing new brands, including the luxury Diamante. Again, given the bubble context, that didn’t go well. Next MMC rode the sport utility boom with the Pajero, its Jeep-like product. It was the first firm to do so in Japan, and until rivals entered it earned a lot of money.

Meanwhile it expanded overseas, with assembly plants not just in the US but also NedCar in Europe (from 1991), Chrysler’s old operation in Australia (from 1980), a tie-up with Proton in Malaysia, an engine and later transmission plant and CKD operation in the Philippines, and stand-alone operations with a proper assembly plant in Thailand. Finally, on an ad hoc basis MMC also exported plant and equipment to various firms, including Hyundai and Proton.

Most fared poorly. Its domestic bubble-era brands are gone, as are NedCar (closed in 2012) and Australian (2008) operations. Domestically it turned out a bit over 500,000 vehicles in 2013, but 60% of those were exported. With the yen weak (today at ¥101 per US$) exports are now profitable. Exports are also the focus of their US operations, which currently turn out 70,000 SUVs a year. But exports are an expedient, not a strategy, only grasping at a short-term profit source. Meanwhile, 60% of domestic sales are of minicars. That’s good news, because sales of that segment are rising (up 10% over the last year) but it’s also bad news, because low-priced cars cannot possibly generate the profits needed to keep the company going.

International operations look better, centered in Thailand with joint ventures in China and Russia. In terms of production they are the same order of magnitude as MMC’s domestic operations. But because most of domestic production is exported, the international-to-domestic sales mix is closer to 90:10 than 50:50. What has tided the company over domestically were one-off OEM deals with Nissan, Honda and others. But again, that’s a temporary expedient; there’s no history in the auto industry over the past century, in the US or elsewhere, of sustained interfirm trading. Much more solid are its pickups in Thailand and SUVs in other developing markets such as Russia and China.

Jan-May 2014 change
Domestic Production 273,429 +41%
Domestic Sales 62,954 +14%
Regular Cars 21,376 -19%
Kei Cars 29,708 +104%
Commercial Vehicles 11,870 -16%
Exports 147,190 +12%
Overseas Production 257,781 -5%
Total Production 531,210 +14%
Domestic Sales/Total Production 12%

In Japan, Europe and North American its dealership networks remain weak. For example, in Japan it was late to expand into urban areas, and so had poor locations and poor franchisees. In order to finance its urban presence MMC resorted to supplying cash in turn for equity stakes in dealers. It then dispatched managers from the manufacturing side, who have not proved adept at selling cars – Tesla be warned! In North America and Europe it is hampered by years of poor sales and an uncertain product strategy. (TTAC product reviews of the Mirage and Outlander are less than stellar, while noting the lack of a clear lineup.) Only repeated infusions of equity from the Mitsubishi family of companies kept it afloat, and 25% of those have now been written off.

Thus MMC is a firm with a strong presence in Southeast Asia; it’s basically a Thai firm with lots of engineering facilities and a few underutilized factories in Japan. It has modest operations in China, though as typical of late entrants its factories are scattered from Manchuria to Guangzhou. Then there’s a production base in Japan. Its product lineup is good for the developing world, but in 3 of the 4 largest markets – North America, Europe and Japan – its product mix is weak. The company is thus claiming it will ride emerging market dynamism to success. Elsewhere – in developed markets – its proclaimed focus is electric vehicles, to me a dim idea. But where will it be able to generate profits sufficient to sustain its engineering operations and factories in Japan? Exports only work while the yen remains weak. And without a steady stream of new products, all facing the expensive engineering challenges of increasing demands for fuel efficiency, low emissions, safety and connectivity, it can’t survive.

So selling the firm strikes me as their last straw. There’s a problem: for whom would a purchase make sense? Its current alliances with Nissan-Renault make that a possible option, as they can potentially use MMC’s plants (though not its dealers) in the US and Japan). Perhaps a Chinese company can be tempted, as with PSA and Volvo. But as I see it, FiatChrysler is the one global player with a footprint in North America and Europe that lacks a strong presence in China and developing Asia, the regions where MMC is least weak. If so, this would be the third attempt involving some iteration of Chrysler. But remember, three strikes and they’re out. And that will be MMC’s fate, if it can’t sell itself before the yen again strengthens.

To reiterate: I believe they’re more likely to be a Saab story.

 

N.B. This draws upon a post by my student, Anton Reed W&L’14 in May 2014 for Economics 244. The Prof edited it and appended the global story.

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Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:55:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868922   Mitsubishi’s website claims the Mirage is a “small car for a big life.” Possible: while I haven’t done a TTAC review in over a year, know that even the rare automotive sampling of a ball of flaming garbage in a catapult possesses a modicum of engineering /styling/marketing prowess. Good cars exist everywhere, which is […]

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Press Cars: just a Mirage? (all photos courtesy Sajeev Mehta)

Press Cars: just a Mirage? (all photos courtesy Sajeev Mehta)

Mitsubishi’s website claims the Mirage is a “small car for a big life.” Possible: while I haven’t done a TTAC review in over a year, know that even the rare automotive sampling of a ball of flaming garbage in a catapult possesses a modicum of engineering /styling/marketing prowess. Good cars exist everywhere, which is worthy of someone’s “big life.”

And contrary to the rash of negative press, the Mirage is an honest machine worthy of a closer look.

DSCN5986The Made in Thailand DNA is unmistakable: the Mirage feels like an aspirational vehicle for a growing middle class in an emerging market. Living outside of the American design bubble has its perks: peep that demure, wind cheating nose bearing no pretense to corporate branding (cough, Aston Martin grilles) for starters. The low-ish DLO provides excellent visibility without resorting to the artificially large/dorky greenhouses of yesteryear’s subcompacts. The top-line ES sports cheerful 14” alloys while color-keyed fog lights add modest flair to the base model’s surprisingly subtle and cool rear spoiler. You know, for a 5-door econobox.

DSCN5990So pop inside the Mirage’s surprisingly inviting cabin: headroom galore, not uncomfortable bucket seats, dressy black lacquer center stack sporting Rothko-worthy HVAC vents, leather(ish) wrapped wheel, power everything, keyless ignition (on the left like a 911) and admirable ergonomics encased in richly grained, tightly constructed plastics that look more expensive than their fossilized demeanor suggests. That infamous road test mentioned airbag flash casting, which my test Mirage had instead on the E-brake handle. To see such cheapness on a new car under 13 grand ($15,195 as-tested) was horrifying I tell you!

DSCN6006Genuine gripes for a car this cheap? No center armrest, and the small cargo area means the (comfortable) rear seats must fold down for modest amounts of luggage. No biggie, except getting them back up without snagging the shoulder belts in the latch mechanism is a challenge. But the inability to stream audio (SoundCloud) from an iPhone 4 via the glovebox’s USB plug got on my nerves. It defaulted to iTunes, which I rarely use. And forget music when Google Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation is on: since I was denied the best Mirage-related song on the face of the earth, here it is.

Click here to view the embedded video.

DSCN6017And while bright colors add necessary excitement to a bottom rung hatchback, my Radioactive Blue Mirage fought its purple-flecked seat fabrics to no end. Cheap cars rightly show their exterior paint around interior window frames, a colorblind seat fabric is necessary. Feng Shui aside, color coding on the (power) door locks wouldn’t hurt: the lever needs a red decal to warn of threats from potential carjackers from an unlocked portal.

DSCN5997Fire up the Mirage and a pleasant (if you appreciate any mechanical sound) bellow from the three-banger mill makes it clear: this is an honest machine from another era. Even with electronics behind the 7 airbags, ABS, electric steering and active handling nanny in tow, the Mirage provides an unhindered driving joy coming from a suspension managing a mere 2051 lbs. Driving dynamics occasionally delight with its flat powerband, even with the CVT in lieu of a proper 5-speed. Bargain basement fun was a simple trick away. Check it:

Dial into the 1-ton Mirage’s occasionally communicative steering and toss it a corner (off-throttle) and the low-rolling resistance, tall profile rubber holds on with modest body roll. Now mash the throttle a good 2 seconds before hitting your intended apex. Do it right and you’ll fling out the corner with all 74 horses’ howling in passionate protest. Try to stop smiling as traffic becomes a dot in the rear-view.

DSCN5984And on the remote chance you built enough steam for a rapid stop, the vented disc/drum combination is more than adequate for the street. Even the twist-beam axle plays well on bumpy roads, further testament to the joy of a lightweight car.

DSCN6007Forcing the Mirage’s CVT into submission is moderately more infuriating than today’s auto-erratic transaxles. Yet, considering the efficiency boost, the autobox is done: the EPA’s 37/44MPG were matched and quickly surpassed. Light traffic (40-50mph) rewarded with a stunning 50.2 MPG from my house to the local Tesla gallery. And that’s with this featherweight’s (surprisingly robust and standard) automatic temperature control HVAC cranked!

As the 3-pot Mirage burbled buzzed idled next to the Tesla, I pondered if these radical electronic wonders are $85,000-ish better than a 50+ MPG hatchback. Is anything really that much better?

10372084_10152226017973269_3590992957388189892_nQuirky shit-can vibe aside, the Mirage cruises like a larger car, spanking the Smart ForTwo in both speed and stability. While acceleration is never rapid, the CVT keeps the Mirage in its powerband, hovering around 5000 revs. Mash the throttle around 70mph and the CVT revs to 6000, netting acceleration no slower than lower speeds. (In Houston, near sea level.) It’s still molasses slow with a loud engine, but with insane aerodynamics (small frontal area, 0.28 cd) it works. Witness this Easter Egg in the owner’s manual: a Highway Patrol speed warning for another journalist.

10452467_10152230027413269_1482059042706384612_nAnd upon the realization that running the Mirage at 10/10ths is a fool’s errand, one’s rewarded with a ride that soaks up both huge potholes and small pavement imperfections with precision. Impact harshness, so prevalent in modern cars with 18+ inch wheels, is literally smothered by Low Carb Panther Love.

Should you buy the Mirage over its sub-15k competition, or any “superior” used car? Maybe, but given the combo of a low asking price, $1000 rebate with 1.9% APR (this month), robust 10-year warranty and new car smell unavailable in used cars, you’d be forgiven for heading straight to a Mitsubishi dealer, using the extra monthly cash for food, gas, shelter, children, baby momma/daddy drama, medical bills, credit card debt, college debt…see where I’m going with this?

The similarly priced Chevy Spark could excel, depending on incentives. A larger, safer used car gives a fighting chance against wayward SUVs threatening a harsh lesson in the Laws of Physics. But Mitsubishi claims the Mirage meets their (modest) sales goals for good reason: it’s kinda fun and gets the job done with mad respect for your wallet.  And I appreciate that.

DSCN5995Your opinion of our society’s demand for easy credit and “need” for new car smell aside, the Mirage is a valid transportation opportunity for many Americans. If a Mitsubishi dealer is within easy reach, a cost-benefit analysis is certainly on the table.

(Mitsubishi provided the test vehicle, insurance and a full tank of gas for this review.)

 

923984_259630210907307_1294414854_n DSCN5982 DSCN5983 DSCN5984 DSCN5985 DSCN5986 DSCN5987 DSCN5988 DSCN5989 DSCN5990 DSCN5991 DSCN5992 DSCN5995 DSCN5996 DSCN5997 DSCN5998 DSCN6000 DSCN6001 DSCN6002 DSCN6004 DSCN6005 DSCN6006 DSCN6007 DSCN6008 DSCN6012 DSCN6014 DSCN6015 DSCN6017

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Mitsubishi’s Stay Of Evo Execution Good ‘Till 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishis-stay-of-evo-execution-good-till-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishis-stay-of-evo-execution-good-till-2015/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:33:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863025 First the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was slated to die immediately. Then, we got a reprieve. But now it appears that the Evo’s last mile is in sight. According to Jalopnik, Mitsubishi has confirmed that the Evo will stick around, but only for one more model year. Unfortunately, the Evo doesn’t seem to fit within Mitsubishi’s […]

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First the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was slated to die immediately. Then, we got a reprieve. But now it appears that the Evo’s last mile is in sight.

According to Jalopnik, Mitsubishi has confirmed that the Evo will stick around, but only for one more model year. Unfortunately, the Evo doesn’t seem to fit within Mitsubishi’s overarching vision as a maker of environmentally friendly vehicles, as evidenced by their statement below

Mitsubishi Motors does not have any plans to design a successor with the current concept such as a high-performance four-wheel-drive gasoline-powered sedan. Mitsubishi Motors will explore the possibilities of high-performance models that incorporate electric vehicle technology. Moving forward, the technology honed in the Lancer evolution model will continue to be advanced and proactively incorporated into future models.

With the i-MiEV and the Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi is making a concerted effort to pivot towards a lineup where green technology, rather than performance, is the focus of their brand. The Evo runs counter to this in nearly every way possible. The Lancer is also an ancient vehicle by auto industry standards, with the Subaru Impreza already moving on to the next generation even though both cars were all-new in 2007. If you want one, better hurry…the Evo XI is likely going to look more like today’s crop of hybrid hypercars than any rally homologation special.

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Mitsubishi: U.S.-Bound 2016 Outlander PHEV “Will Be Completely Different” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-u-s-bound-2016-outlander-phev-will-be-completely-different/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-u-s-bound-2016-outlander-phev-will-be-completely-different/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862137 Perhaps as a result of what Mitsubishi had learned thus far since the introduction of the Outlander PHEV in Europe, Japan and Australia — as well as a MY 2016 redesign — the United States-bound PHEV “will be completely different,” according to both Mitsubishi Motors North America Executive Vice President Don Swearingen and U.S. PR […]

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Perhaps as a result of what Mitsubishi had learned thus far since the introduction of the Outlander PHEV in Europe, Japan and Australia — as well as a MY 2016 redesign — the United States-bound PHEV “will be completely different,” according to both Mitsubishi Motors North America Executive Vice President Don Swearingen and U.S. PR boss Alex Fedorak.

Autoblog reports the SUV — now set to arrive in November 2015 — will have an interior with materials that look and feel “less value-oriented,” while its battery monitor can look each cell along with the overall pack. It will also likely take its styling cues from the GC-PHEV and XR-PHEV concepts, both debuting at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show last November.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Outlander Sport may soon possess a 2.4-liter I4 to go with its 2-liter variant as Fedorak and his employer’s dealer network discuss what needs to be done to make the bigger engine a better sell; early results point to stronger highway overtaking ability.

Finally, although Mitsubishi’s long-term goal is to evolve into “an SUV/crossover-type company,” cars will still have a role in the near-term, especially the Mirage compact. Despite most publications giving the Mirage a good thrashing — though our rising superstar managing editor had a different sort of thrashing in mind — Fedorak claims the compact is outselling both the Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris; the latter is ahead of the Mitsubishi by 265 units through the end of June.

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Nissan: 633 CHAdeMO Fast Chargers Available For Use Today, More Coming http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nissan-633-chademo-fast-chargers-available-for-use-today-more-coming/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nissan-633-chademo-fast-chargers-available-for-use-today-more-coming/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858009 Just in time for the Fourth of July travel weekend, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MIEV owners will have access to 633 CHAdeMO fast chargers, up from 160 stations in January 2013. Green Car Reports says back then, the majority of those chargers were along the West Coast and Texas, with Nissan promising to triple that […]

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Just in time for the Fourth of July travel weekend, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MIEV owners will have access to 633 CHAdeMO fast chargers, up from 160 stations in January 2013.

Green Car Reports says back then, the majority of those chargers were along the West Coast and Texas, with Nissan promising to triple that number within 18 months. Nissan North America senior manager of corporate communications Brian Brockman announced last week that his employer had gone above and beyond by bringing online nearly 500 units in the time period, with all listed on PlugShare.

As for the rest of FY 2014, Nissan will push forward to bring more CHAdeMO stations online, from its network of dealerships, to top Leaf markets such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston. Meanwhile, another vehicle will be able to make use of the chargers when the 2015 Kia Soul EV goes on sale later on this summer.

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Mexico To Get Chrysler Badged Mitsubishi Mirage Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mexico-to-get-chrysler-badged-mitsubishi-mirage-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mexico-to-get-chrysler-badged-mitsubishi-mirage-sedan/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 14:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856785 It turns out that news of an Asian-market Chrysler sedan that was a re-badged Mitsubishi Mirage wasn’t entirely accurate. The sedan in question is actually heading for Mexico, according to this announcement from Mitsubishi. Interestingly, a report by Just-Auto which denied the initial report also said that the Mirage sedan would be heading to Canada. Mitsubishi showed […]

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It turns out that news of an Asian-market Chrysler sedan that was a re-badged Mitsubishi Mirage wasn’t entirely accurate.

The sedan in question is actually heading for Mexico, according to this announcement from Mitsubishi. Interestingly, a report by Just-Auto which denied the initial report also said that the Mirage sedan would be heading to Canada. Mitsubishi showed the car off at this year’s Toronto Auto Show, but had no firm plans for selling the car.

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Colt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-colt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-colt/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854209 By the final years of the Malaise Era, Chrysler had their econobox needs covered on the one hand by much-modified rebadged Simcas, and on the other by not-at-all-modified rebadged Mitsubishis. These cars were no worse than their Ford and GM competitors (which isn’t saying much), but the inherent cheapness of the 4th-gen Mitsubishi-built Colt meant […]

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08 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy the final years of the Malaise Era, Chrysler had their econobox needs covered on the one hand by much-modified rebadged Simcas, and on the other by not-at-all-modified rebadged Mitsubishis. These cars were no worse than their Ford and GM competitors (which isn’t saying much), but the inherent cheapness of the 4th-gen Mitsubishi-built Colt meant that most of them weren’t worth fixing after about 1992, and these cars are rare indeed nowadays. In this series, we’d seen just one example of this generation of Colt/Mirage/Champ prior to today’s find.
05 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one was parked illegally in Hayward, California, and the owner couldn’t or wouldn’t rescue it before the tow-truck man came to take it on its last ride.
09 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy any sort of 21st-century standards, these cars sucked. They were noisy, rattly, slow, and broke down a lot. However, we are now living in the Golden Age of Miserable Little Econoboxes, where even the diminished-expectations Versa and Spark are perfectly pleasant transportation applicances, and so it just isn’t fair to apply 21st-century standards to the ’81 Colt.
01 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust imagine you’re listening to Debbie Harry “rap” about Fab Five Freddy on the AM radio and getting 40 mpg in the grim years after the Ayatollah jacked up gas prices and this car makes more sense.
11 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot much attempt was made to obscure the Japanese origins of this car, though the same could not be said of the French origins of the Omni/Horizon.

Perhaps Chrysler should have gone with the Japan-market ads for this car.

Imported for Dodge!

01 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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FCA To Sell Re-Badged Mitsubshi Mirages In Colt Redux http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fca-to-sell-re-badged-mitsubshi-mirages-in-colt-redux/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fca-to-sell-re-badged-mitsubshi-mirages-in-colt-redux/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 05:39:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854473 Chrysler will re-badge the Mitsubishi Attrage (the sedan version of the much-loved Mitsubishi Mirage) for sale in Asian markets. Sounds crazy, right? Not really. Chrysler has a history of selling small Mitsubishis under their own brand in North America, but the agreement with Mitsubishi will cover Asia, a region where Chrysler has never been particularly […]

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Chrysler will re-badge the Mitsubishi Attrage (the sedan version of the much-loved Mitsubishi Mirage) for sale in Asian markets. Sounds crazy, right? Not really.

Chrysler has a history of selling small Mitsubishis under their own brand in North America, but the agreement with Mitsubishi will cover Asia, a region where Chrysler has never been particularly strong. No specific markets or brand decisions were announced for the Thai-built sedan, but we’d like to humbly suggest a name for the new car: the Colt.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Big In The UK http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mitsubishi-outlander-phev-big-in-the-uk/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mitsubishi-outlander-phev-big-in-the-uk/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850146 The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV may not be coming to the United States until sometime between the autumn of 2015 and early 2016, but United Kingdom customers are already lining up at their local dealerships for a test drive of the SUV that can be had for the same price as its diesel sibling. Cambridge News […]

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The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV may not be coming to the United States until sometime between the autumn of 2015 and early 2016, but United Kingdom customers are already lining up at their local dealerships for a test drive of the SUV that can be had for the same price as its diesel sibling.

Cambridge News reports one particular dealership, Duxford Motor Group, had conducted 23 test drives during the two-day launch of the PHEV earlier this month, with 40 to 50 parties rebooked for test drives due to its fiscal popularity. According to sales executive Alex Dunn, the Outlander PHEV retails for £28,250 ($48,150 USD) — which includes a government tax credit of £5,000 ($8,522 USD) — the same price as the 2.2-liter diesel variant, and comes with other benefits, as well:

100 per cent write-down in first year, which is a first for employers, and if you’re an employee it’s 5 per cent Benefit in Kind which is astonishing. This is one of very few vehicles which is congestion-charge free and it’s not a little car, it’s a five-seater four-wheel drive vehicle, so it ticks so many boxes fotr [sic] people who perhaps wouldn’t have come to our door before – fans of all the big brands are coming to see us. It’s a tough car too – rock-solid and super-reliable.

The PHEV has an all-electric range of 32 imperial miles before the 2-liter gasoline engine takes over, and delivers 148 mpg between the engine and two electric motors.

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The Dakota That Could Have Been http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/the-dakota-that-could-have-been/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/the-dakota-that-could-have-been/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 14:23:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836241 Sometime around 2012, a Ram Trucks source told TTAC about an investigation into a smaller pickup for the brand, one that could have even turned out to be a front-drive pickup. “We won’t do another Dakota,” said our source, “but maybe something else.”. By all accounts, that truck would have been based on one of […]

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Sometime around 2012, a Ram Trucks source told TTAC about an investigation into a smaller pickup for the brand, one that could have even turned out to be a front-drive pickup. “We won’t do another Dakota,” said our source, “but maybe something else.”. By all accounts, that truck would have been based on one of Fiat’s small, unibody front-drive pickups. But now, Fiat seems to want a Dakota of its own.

Automotive News reports that Fiat will get a new body-on-frame midsize truck starting in 2016, which will be a variant of the Mitsubishi L200. The Thai-built L200 is a smaller, body-on-frame pickup with rear or four-wheel drive and both gasoline and diesel engines, making it a good fit for Fiat’s commercial vehicle lineup. And it’s very likely that we’ll never seen it here.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at the most recent 5-year plan that FCA had tried out a smaller truck at clinics, but was unable to wow the crowd, let alone make a business case for such a truck. The L200 isn’t homologated for North America either, and a smaller truck isn’t a great fit for FCA in terms of CAFE either. FCA is already lagging behind other OEMs in terms of CAFE footprint, and small trucks are one of the worst vehicles when it comes to meeting those standards.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 17:40:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834489 Deep within the comments of a recent luxury vehicle review, a familiar, satirical exchange takes place: Googleplex:                       The pixel-density on the new touch system is passable, but LCD screens in cars in 2014 are laughable. Have these people even heard of AMOLED? MauraudStar:                    Panther Love knows no touchscreens, my friend. MoparMalaise:                 Panther Love knows no […]

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Deep within the comments of a recent luxury vehicle review, a familiar, satirical exchange takes place:

Googleplex:                       The pixel-density on the new touch system is passable, but LCD screens in cars in 2014 are laughable. Have these people even heard of AMOLED?

MauraudStar:                    Panther Love knows no touchscreens, my friend.

MoparMalaise:                 Panther Love knows no rich Corinthian leather, either.

VivaVega:                           We lost the war against fuel injection in the 1980’s, and I’m not about to give up the rest of my control to electronic nannies. Spare me your all-wheel drive, your dual-clutch transmissions and the 30 years of weight gain! Why can’t someone build a simple, functional car anymore?

Will any manufacturer answer VivaVega’s question? Enter the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage.

This isn’t the first time Mitsubishi has sold a subcompact with the Mirage nameplate. The first generation Mirage debuted in 1978. (You might be more familiar with it as the fourth gen Dodge Colt or Plymouth Champ). Mitsubishi’s fortunes waxed and waned over the next three decades, and the Mirage was eventually discontinued in 2003. The name was revived in 2012, and North American exports started for model year 2014.

So how far have we come since 1978? Generation one was notable mostly for its fuel efficiency and price. Braking was handled by vented discs in the front and drums in the back. Seventy horses were corralled in a 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine. Overall weight ranged from just 1,700 to 1,984 pounds.

Generation six, represented by today’s 2014 specimen, is notable for fuel efficiency and price. Braking is handled by vented discs in the front and drums in the back. Seventy-four horses are corralled up in a 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine. Overall weight is just 1,973 manufacturer-stated pounds.

Wait… what?

Yup. 1,973 pounds in a street-legal 2014 with seven airbags, five seats, four wheels and a compact spare tire. A modern Mirage’s weight and power may be indistinguishable from its groovy forefathers, but the equipment list certainly isn’t – standard features include keyless entry, air conditioning, a 140 watt stereo, and powered windows, locks and mirrors. Not too shabby for $13,805 (DE trim with 5-speed manual at MSRP plus destination).

Most sales volume is expected to come from the ES trim with a CVT. Parting with $16,005 adds fog lights, 14” alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, passive entry and a push-start button that curiously resides to the left of the steering wheel.

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How are these prices accomplished? The manufacturing location certainly plays a role. Much hay has been made on TTAC about the viability of Chinese-manufactured cars in North America. Open the Mirage’s hatch (or eventual trunk in the Canadian market) and take a whiff. That ain’t wasabi, but it ain’t dim sum either. Hope you like Thai!

Most likely, the Mirage is a small start to a large trend. While just 7,200 Mirage’s are forecasted for the US market this year, Thailand is already a major regional automotive exporter. Automotive News pegged Thai automotive production at 2.45 million vehicles in 2012, and over a million were exported. Other nameplates, most notably the Ford Fiesta, will also exported to North American from Thailand over the next few years.

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Small export volume certainly helps account for the Mirage’s nondescript, global looks. Styling a vehicle 148.8 inches long and 59 inches tall is tough, but Mitsubishi could have done worse (the i-Miev comes to mind). The scant grill looks a bit odd, but it does help the Mirage achieve an impressive coefficient of drag – just 0.28. The spectrum of available colors – bright green, blue, red, even a noxious purple – is a welcome change from the white, black and grey Mitsubishi could have certainly made a business case for.

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So the exterior is cheap and maybe even a bit cheerful. Does the interior continue the theme? Unfortunately, no. Plastics are hard and drab as expected, but they are also severely straightforward. Unlike the Fiat 500, there is no playfulness or fashion in the design. The experience is aesthetically similar to Korean vehicles designed in the early 2000s. Fit and finish is similar too – a few trim pieces didn’t line up well, and exposed fasteners are easy to find.

Functionality isn’t following form, but it still isn’t flawless. Driver controls are simple, but only one cupholder is available in the rear. The roofline enables decent cargo capacity in the hatch, but the only dome light is up front near the driver. Rear leg room is surprisingly good, but the contourless rear bench forces passengers in back to brace themselves during routine urban maneuvers.

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The suspension’s constant body roll can be blamed for some of that. Ride quality was better than anticipated though, and the brakes felt decent. Still, understeer is high, tire grip is low and the electric power steering is poorly implemented. Enthusiasm just isn’t welcome here. Count me out of Derek’s spec-Mirage racing series.

The powertrain never promised fun though, just efficiency. The 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine manages 34 city/42 highway/37 combined with the five-speed manual and 37 city/44 highway/40 combined with the CVT. Mitsubishi claims the Mirage has the best combined non-hybrid efficiency in the US (Ford’s three-cylinder Fiesta scores 32/45/37). The CVT gets clunky around complete stops, but it is mostly helpful on the road. The car is never fast, but it did feel wholly adequate for use around town with occasional interstate jaunts.

Considering the physical dimensions, budget and powertrain, Mitsubishi succeeded in crafting a very efficient, mostly normal driving experience. They deserve applause for that. Unfortunately, they won’t hear it due to the Mirage’s abnormally high noise levels.

I’ll be frank – the Mirage is the loudest passenger car I can remember driving in the last five years. Only jackhammer operators and cross-country motorcycle riders could describe it as “not too bad.” At idle, the engine note varies somewhere between a warble and an unsteady growl. Rumble up to highways speeds, and the turn signals are nearly inaudible. My wife, a decidedly mainstream consumer, felt the noise levels let down the rest of the car.

Vibration will also be problematic for the average Joe. The passenger seat shook at idle, and a constant tingle could be felt through the steering wheel. The three-holer doesn’t generate Peterbilt-grade rumble, but buzz is always present. Like the 2014 Outlander I recently drove, the brand-new Mirage also had a constant interior squeak.

So where does the Mirage stand? The Chevy Spark’s fuel efficiency falls short, but the design is more upbeat. A Nissan Versa is larger and can be configured cheaper, but its warranty is bested by the Mirage’s 10-year guarantee. The used market offers myriad possibilities, but buying new is a point of pride for many consumers.

Many people say they just want something cheap that runs. Consider the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage their litmus test.

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Mitsubishi Evo Gets A Stay Of Execution http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mitsubishi-evo-gets-a-stay-of-execution/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mitsubishi-evo-gets-a-stay-of-execution/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 14:47:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834097 Although we previously reported that the Mitsubishi Evolution was slated to die for the 2015 model year, it appears that the Evo has been granted a last minute reprieve. Our colleagues at AutoGuide spoke to a Mitsubishi Motors North America spokesperson, who confirmed that the Evo would be sticking around for 2015, with production commencing […]

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Although we previously reported that the Mitsubishi Evolution was slated to die for the 2015 model year, it appears that the Evo has been granted a last minute reprieve.

Our colleagues at AutoGuide spoke to a Mitsubishi Motors North America spokesperson, who confirmed that the Evo would be sticking around for 2015, with production commencing in July. Those looking for an alternative to the Subaru WRX/STI now have an extra year to get take home one of the most pure performance cars…in the wurrlldd.

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PSA, Mitsubishi May End EV Partnership http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/psa-mitsubishi-may-end-ev-partnership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/psa-mitsubishi-may-end-ev-partnership/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 04:01:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828330 PSA and Mitsubishi may discontinue their electric vehicle partnership in the next 12 months, according to PSA CEO Carlos Tavares. Speaking to a government body related to economic affairs, Tavares said that PSA would be re-evaluating the arrangement, which has PSA selling the Mitsubishi i-MiEV under the Citroen and Peugeot brands. According to Reuters, sales […]

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PSA and Mitsubishi may discontinue their electric vehicle partnership in the next 12 months, according to PSA CEO Carlos Tavares.

Speaking to a government body related to economic affairs, Tavares said that PSA would be re-evaluating the arrangement, which has PSA selling the Mitsubishi i-MiEV under the Citroen and Peugeot brands.

According to Reuters, sales of the PSA branded EVs are down dramatically, from a combined 6,222 units in 2013 to 1106 in 2014. Despite this, Tavares cited the strength of the yen as a possible factor for the partnership’s fate.

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New or Used: Can One Car Last Through Five Kids? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804162 I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get. The particulars: - Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15… - Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple […]

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I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get.

The particulars:

- Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15…

- Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple more likely over the next several years
- Three current cars are all paid for
- Commute is 35 highway miles each way and will be that way for at least the next 18 months and maybe longer
- Car #1 – 2006 Honda Odyssey with ~120,000 miles (bought new)
- Car #2 – 2007 Honda Accord 5 speed with ~83,000 miles (bought used)
- Car #3 – 1969 Jeepster Commando that’s been in my family since 1973.

Our oldest turns 16 in a few months and we’d like to get a vehicle that the kids can all drive over the next 13 years. Note that I said ‘a’ vehicle as we keep our cars a long time and don’t intend on getting another car for the kids to share. One and done.

What should that fourth vehicle be? I see really only two paths that make sense.

First option: Get a car that pushes 40+mpg to ease the pain at the pump my commute causes. Possible vehicle: my Dad is selling his 2011 Jetta TDI 5 speed wagon this fall and I have dibs, if I so choose. This option would mean that the kids would drive the Accord, which we’re fine with.

Second option: Get something that can double as the kids’ car and that we can use to tow the Commando on our future moves. This means I would keep commuting in my Accord, which is also fine. Budget is about $7K max and we’ll pay cash.

We are leaning strongly towards getting a third gen 4Runner (’96-’01) with a V6, 4×4 and tow package as the min requirements. Manual is highly desired but not required. There are several for sale where we live (north of LA) and examples with 150-175k miles can be found for around $5k, although most are automatics. Reviews and 4Runner forums seem to portend good news regarding longevity with relatively straight forward maintenance required. My fear? My vehicle aperture isn’t nearly wide enough and that there are lots of other good options out there that we’re not considering. Whatever the fourth vehicle ends up being, there isn’t a requirement that it be able to carry all seven of us.

I leave it in your capable hands. What does your magic 8 ball say? (It better not say to buy a Panther, ’cause it ain’t happening!)

Cheers,

Steve Says

I like your first option the best.

If your kids learn how to drive a stick (good move there!), they will eventually get a far better vehicle in the marketplace as they get older and more independent.

As a car dealer circa 2014, it amazes me how so few people know how to drive a stick these days. When it comes to older vehicles, I find that sticks will go for about 15% to 35% cheaper than their automatic counterparts with a few notable exceptions

I still buy a lot of em’ for retail, and although they sit at my lot for longer periods of time, they also attract customers who are far more conscientious about maintenance and upkeep. This helps me when it comes to financing these rides. Since a car that is well kept tends to have fewer issues.

As for option 2, yes, the Toyota 4Runner has an excellent long-term reliability record. But let me throw in an alternative that will cost thousands less and have a solid reliability record as well.

I would consider a Mitsubishi Montero  from the early 2000′s. If you buy one with the 3.5 Liter, they are virtually bulletproof, and the kids will benefit from a higher seating position.  The gas mileage will remain abysmal. But in the real world the 3.5 Liter in the Montero will get you a vehicle with about half the miles of the 4Runner for the same price, and the reliability of that particular powertrain is solid (<—click).

Maintenance history is critically important when buying older SUV’s because a lot of them are neglected and inevitably hot-potatoed in the used car market . So get it independently inspected and only opt for ones that have a strong maintenance regimen. Otherwise you will also be buying someone else’s problems.

Good luck! Oh, and if you decide to not buy an older SUV, I have a beige on beige Toyota Solara with a V6, no CD player, and a hand shaker in between the front seats. I’m thinking about naming it, “The Rolling Leper” in honor if it more or less being an unsellable car.

If you don’t have to tow, go find the west coast version of a low-spec Solara. In a non-rust climate like central California, I think a car like that would probably be the optimal fit.

All the best.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Arrives In UK Showrooms Minus Premium Price http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mitsubishi-outlander-phev-arrives-in-uk-showrooms-minus-premium-price/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mitsubishi-outlander-phev-arrives-in-uk-showrooms-minus-premium-price/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:04:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787553 Already available throughout Europe, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is now just arriving in United Kingdom showrooms at a post-credit price tag of £28,249 ($47,000 USD). Autoblog Green reports the plug-in hybrid SUV without the £5,000 credit would start at £33,249 ($55,000 USD), but with the credit, the starting price is around the same level as […]

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Already available throughout Europe, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is now just arriving in United Kingdom showrooms at a post-credit price tag of £28,249 ($47,000 USD).

Autoblog Green reports the plug-in hybrid SUV without the £5,000 credit would start at £33,249 ($55,000 USD), but with the credit, the starting price is around the same level as its diesel-powered sibling, thus allowing UK consumers to pick the SUV they want without worrying too much about affordability.

As for what they will get out of their Outlander PHEV, the hybrid has a range of 32 miles in all-electric at a limited speed of 75 mph, and can tow over 3,000 lbs.

On sale now, the first SUVs will arrive in May, with the PHEV arriving in the United States in 2015, which will share a facelift with its U.S.-based gasoline-powered twin. No word on how the PHEV will be priced in the U.S.

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Mitsubishi Buys Laguna Ford Assembly Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mitsubishi-buys-laguna-ford-assembly-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mitsubishi-buys-laguna-ford-assembly-plant/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 17:06:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785649 In a push to expand Southeast Asia sales, Mitsubishi has purchased a Ford assembly plant in Laguna, Philippines for an undisclosed amount. Automotive News reports the plant, which last saw production in 2012, will start back up in 2015 with an initial capacity of 50,000 units per year, expanding to 100,000 annually. The plant will […]

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In a push to expand Southeast Asia sales, Mitsubishi has purchased a Ford assembly plant in Laguna, Philippines for an undisclosed amount.

Automotive News reports the plant, which last saw production in 2012, will start back up in 2015 with an initial capacity of 50,000 units per year, expanding to 100,000 annually. The plant will produce both the Adventure and L300 vans.

The second plant in the automaker’s Philippine portfolio, Laguna is key to underpinning Mitsubishi’s strength in the Southeast Asia market, especially in the emerging local auto market where the automaker is second to Toyota in annual sales.

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TTAC Salutes: The Mitsubishi Evo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ttac-salutes-the-mitsubishi-evo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ttac-salutes-the-mitsubishi-evo/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 12:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785425 Japan’s greatest rally special. The M5 for the Playstation generation. The only decent car Mitsubishi ever made. Different people associate the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with different enthusiast tropes. For me, the Evo will always be inextricably linked to heartbreak. Early in my career as an automotive journalist, I managed to wrangle a red Evo MR […]

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Japan’s greatest rally special. The M5 for the Playstation generation. The only decent car Mitsubishi ever made. Different people associate the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with different enthusiast tropes. For me, the Evo will always be inextricably linked to heartbreak.

Early in my career as an automotive journalist, I managed to wrangle a red Evo MR (above) for a week-long road test. A weekend trip to visit my then girlfriend ended in a very humiliating public breakup, and a 100 mile drove home in near-blizzard conditions.

The breakup, though minor in retrospect, served as a trigger for the kind of emotional anguish that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I was an animated example of every post-breakup cliche: unable to listen to certain songs, all too able to ingest excess amounts of alcohol, unwilling to get out of bed in the morning, incapable of focusing on my work or personal responsibilities. I steadfastly avoided anything that had even the slightest association with my ex. Except the Evo.

For some unknown reason, the local press fleet manager had another Evo, an MR model in the dark graphite color that was so popular a few years ago. Nobody seemed to want it. When I’d check for available cars, the Evo was always kicking around, and I was always there to borrow it. I ended up driving on three different week long stints, and it never lost its lustre.

On the continuum of “superlative performance cars with humble origins”, the Evo is somewhere between an Integra Type-R and an Escort Cosworth. It still retains the vestigial shape, drivetrain configuration and hard points as the regular Lancer, but beyond that, there is little commonality.

The base Lancer is meant to be cheap, practical transportation for global C-segment consumers. The Evo is not cheap to buy or to own (thanks to a small tank and a thirsty powertrain, good luck getting above 12 mpg). About the only concession to practicality it makes is the fact that it has two doors and a barely passable rear seat. Between the fuel tank, the all-wheel drive system, the pureile subwoofer and the battery, the trunk can barely hold more than a carry-on suitcase. The interior is an embarrassment and the Mitsubishi brand – from the dealer experience to the name itself to having to tell people you drive one – is dismal.

In return, you get one of the most visceral, thrilling driving experiences available at any prices. The Evo is not a rival to a Subaru WRX or a Focus ST or a Golf R. It would not be hyperbolic to liken its qualitative traits to something exotic. The steering is more similar to a Lotus Evora than anything else, while the handling defies verbal explanation. Dynamically, it’s as capable as a Nissan GT-R, but without the clinical, disconnected personality, and the turbocharged 4-cylinder powertrain, with its overwhelming induction noise and unrefined dual-clutch gearbox, is the welterweight version of the GT-R’s mighty twin turbo V6.

No wonder it’s going to be put to sleep. In a marketplace full of commoditized boxes with in-dash iPads, CAFE-driven two-point-oh-tee engines and reverse teardrop styling, the Evo is a relic of a time when performance wasn’t equated with profligacy and planetary destruction. There’s simply no place for the Evo anymore.

But that’s nothing new either. When I penned my earlier piece for TTAC, it looked like the Evo was on its way out as well. At the time, I felt it was a fitting metaphor for a particular stage in my life, one that took supreme importance to me at the age of 22, but was long in the past for most of the B&B. Now that I’m a little older and a little more experienced, I think about the Evo’s demise in its proper context, as the last of a particular breed of Japanese performance car - one ungoverned by profit & loss, economies of scale and other realities for auto makers doing business in the 21st century.

The new crop will look a lot different – a new hybrid NSX, a Supra built with BMW, a Nissan sports coupe with only a CVT. But it won’t look too different either. We still have the FR-S, the new WRX, and a Miata that will be as light as it was in 1990. But there won’t be an Evo. And we’re worse off for that.

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Mitsubishi Kills Off Lancer Evolution http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mitsubishi-kills-off-lancer-evolution/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mitsubishi-kills-off-lancer-evolution/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 13:06:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785265 This generation of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will be the last, according to Automotive News. Although no firm date was given, Mitsubishi did confirm that there will be no successor to the tenth generation Evo. Instead, a potential successor would likely incorporate some kind of electrification, with a Mitsubishi spokesperson telling AN “Mitsubishi Motors does […]

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This generation of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will be the last, according to Automotive News. Although no firm date was given, Mitsubishi did confirm that there will be no successor to the tenth generation Evo.

Instead, a potential successor would likely incorporate some kind of electrification, with a Mitsubishi spokesperson telling AN

“Mitsubishi Motors does not have any plans to design a successor with the current concept, as a high-performance four-wheel drive gasoline-powered sedan…Mitsubishi Motors will explore the possibilities of high-performance models that incorporate electric vehicle technology.”

Mitsubishi is looking to re-focus on utility vehicles, electric cars and other volume models as it combats an increasingly competitive marketplace. The next Lancer is widely expected to come from Renault Samsung, so Mitsubishi can focus resources on development of electric vehicles.

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Hammer Time: The Mitsubishi Banana http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-the-mitsubishi-banana/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-the-mitsubishi-banana/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 09:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=778649 Otherwise known as the Mitsubishi Eclipse. No car has better embodied the sad decline of a once competitive automaker. Awkward styling. Poor interior space and wonky ergonomics. Plus, you got a double whammy if you decided to keep them in the arid parts of the country. Thin flaky paint… and a weird flaw with the […]

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Otherwise known as the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

No car has better embodied the sad decline of a once competitive automaker.

Awkward styling. Poor interior space and wonky ergonomics. Plus, you got a double whammy if you decided to keep them in the arid parts of the country.

Thin flaky paint… and a weird flaw with the glues and vinyls used on the dashboard. The net effect of which is…

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This.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of other vehicles that suffer a similar fate — especially here in the heat enriched world that is Hotlanta.

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The Ford Taurus dashes are legendary for their ability to serve as cubbyholders for your paperwork. If it’s late-90′s model that doesn’t get garaged, this storage space comes standard.

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Kia products were even worse during the early 2000′s. Part of this was abated by the long warranties that Kia offered to compensate for the second-rate glues, foam paddings and adhesives. Even today though, the headliners and dash materials for their older used cars don’t seem to be holding up to Kia’s  aspirations for value and quality.

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But the worst of them, the crème de la crème of substandard materials with nary a fix in sight, goes to Mitsubishi.

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The good news is you can buy a 2006 Eclipse that has been well kept for all of $4000 these days at a wholesale auction and if you fix them up, they can be retailed for around $5000 to $6000. Not a bad price for a sporty vehicle that came from a manufacturer that offers surprising reliability on their four-cylinder models.

The hard part is fixing those peeling bananas on the dash. There seems to be no enduring fix for this cosmetic ailment because the foam rots from within..

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So to make it an enduring fix, you have to replace it all.  Then you have the paint issues which were thankfully rectified in later model years. As for the earlier ones? Consider a basecoat/clearcoat paint job and a healthy level of waxing to keep it looking good.

It’s a shame because, at least in mind, no car has been more important to the successes of Mitsubishi than the first generation Eclipse. The image of that model as a class leader could have set the stage for a long, long list of Mitsubishis that were both sporty and practical.

Instead we ended up with this…

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this…

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and this…

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What’s your take? Is it worth it for Mitsubishi to invest in a recall for the last of these rolling dodos? Or does the sordid memory of a defunct model deserve to be buried and forgotten?

 

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Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE FWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-mitsubishi-outlander-se-fwd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-mitsubishi-outlander-se-fwd/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:55:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770034 A week ago, I asked the Best and Brightest for help in understanding my wife’s desire for a 7-seat vehicle. Uninhibited by the premise of the question, recommendations on what to buy poured in: Honda CR-V Mazda CX-5 Planned Parenthood gift certificate Cadillac XTS in Pearl White Tricoat Dodge Caravan Anything except a Dodge Caravan […]

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A week ago, I asked the Best and Brightest for help in understanding my wife’s desire for a 7-seat vehicle. Uninhibited by the premise of the question, recommendations on what to buy poured in:

  • Honda CR-V
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Planned Parenthood gift certificate
  • Cadillac XTS in Pearl White Tricoat
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Anything except a Dodge Caravan

Several readers submitted well-formulated responses, but the volume of possibilities was dizzying. Mitsubishi may have had a similar problem when redesigning the 2014 Outlander.

At most automakers, product planning is a tough job. Keep things too similar between generations and you risk falling behind. Stray too far from a successful formula and you end up with the second generation Scion xB. Every mistake is an expensive one.

But what about Mitsubishi? The previous generation Outlander was one of the cheaper, sportier rides in the segment and featured unique touches like magnesium shift paddles, a trick two-piece tailgate and an aluminum roof. Per data from TTAC contributor Timothy Cain on Good Car Bad Car, Mitsubishi’s best year for the Outlander was in 2003, with just over 34,000 sold. Crossover sales grew exponentially over the ensuing years, but only 7,750 Outlanders found homes in 2012.

With so few customers to alienate, almost any change would boost sales. So did Mitsubishi double down on sportiness or some other niche? Not really – at least not yet. A PHEV is coming, but for now we are left with a page borrowed from the 2012 Civic’s playbook – decreased MSRPs and a still-cheap interior.

Let’s start by giving credit where credit is due. Prospective buyers can make their own value propositions, but the Outlander is undeniably affordable. A base-trim ES, which includes a 166 hp 2.4 liter SOHC four-cylinder, a CVT, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry and auto-off headlights, costs $23,820 including destination ($200 less than last year). For $24,620, the SE adds in 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity entry, push-button start, heated front seats, a 6.1 inch touchscreen display with a rear camera and the FUSE hands-free system. Super All-Wheel Control, better known as “all-wheel drive” to everyone outside Diamond Star forums, is optional on the mid-level SE and standard on the top-shelf GT ($28,620).

Choosing the GT also yields a 224 hp 3.0 V6, a “Sportronic” six-speed automatic transmission and enables the privilege of ordering the $6,100 Touring package. For over 25% of the base price, this package includes radar-based cruise control, leather seats, a lane departure system and other gadgets.  Apparently, no amount of money can improve the integration of these toys though. Cheap touches like a slap-dash ignition-hole cover on push-start models, left a poor impression.

Regardless of trim level, the Outlander did well in NHSTA and IIHS crash testing. The “good” score on the IIHS small overlap front test, a rarity right now, should be very marketable compared to competing 2014 models.  Fuel economy is also competitive – 25 EPA city, 31 highway, 27 combined for units with FWD, the inline four and a CVT. This efficiency is certainly aided by a curb weight as low as 3,274 pounds in the FWD ES trim.

An increased use of high-strength steel in the crash structure gets some credit for the lithe curb weight, but where did the rest of the savings come from? The recently-reviewed Cherokee weighs about 700 pounds more with just FWD, and even a Dodge Dart weighs 3,348 pounds with the 2.4 and an automatic. Both the Cherokee and Dart are lauded for being relatively quiet vehicles though. Can the Outlander make this claim?

NO. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MANY DECIBELS WE EXPERIENCED WHEN CRUISNG AT 70 MPH, BUT MY WIFE AND I HAD TO TALK LIKE THIS. Road noise is pervasive, but the inline four will likely be the bigger issue for most drivers.

Show me a raucous, performance-tuned engine, and I’ll smile.  Show me another Outlander with the 2.4, and I’ll groan – like the MIVEC. From the parking lot to the freeway, the engine constantly made itself known. More sound-deadening is a must.

Interior fit and finish also need another round of polishing. It may have just been an issue with the dealer’s specimen I drove, but a constant dash rattle was a disappointment. My wife’s car has 86,000 miles and rattles. My car has 145,000 miles and rattles. This car had 21 miles and rattled. That isn’t progress.

As expected, the 2.4 and CVT provide a driving experience best described as “imitation vanilla”. While not inappropriate for a crossover, most competitors offer more polished, anodyne experiences. Acceleration around town was acceptable, but highway passing required planning. Good visibility in all directions was a positive, and maneuverability in and out of tight spaces was good. Still, I don’t disagree with TTAC alum Michael Karesh describing the suspension as “under-damped”. I also found the electric steering to require constant adjustments on-center, even at city speeds.

Driving dynamics may not be a big deal in this segment, but aesthetics can be. I’ll leave the critical analysis to our in-house styling expert, but a schnoz this unique needs to be mentioned. The shark-nosed Outlander (2010-2013) drew neutral-to-positive responses from everyone I spoke to. The 2014 generally left those same people puzzled. Mitsubishi needs to stand out from the herd to survive, but this may not be the best way to attract attention.

The seventh inning stretch of the review has been reserved for the most important part of the car – its interior space. Don’t stretch too far though or you’ll likely strike a passenger. With 183.3 inches of length, the seven-seat Outlander is shorter than all other seven-seaters save the 2014 Nissan Rogue (182.3’’). For a point of comparison, the five-seat Chevy Equinox (187.8’’) is longer than either.

I had no issues with front seat space, though seat padding was thin and my back disagreed with the contours. I have a trim build and average height, so larger individuals might have more issues.

Tumbling the second row isn’t as smooth as some competitors, but it does slide fore and aft easily. That’s good, because you’ll need to slide those seats forward for even children to fit into the third row. A photo of me stuffed in the third row exists but did not come out well. Picture a grown man in a Cozy Coupe and you’ll get the idea.

Comparing manufacturer-calculated interior space is tricky business, but the 2014 Outlander loses space even compared to its predecessor.  Folding the second and third rows yield a flat floor with 63.3 cubes of space, but the 2013 featured 72.6. The ’14 can only hold 10.3 cubes with the seats up, so this isn’t likely to be the right car for livery duty in a large family.

For some buyers, all of these warts will be covered by the generous warranty – 10-years/100,000 miles on the powertrain. Will Mitsubishi will be here to replace recalcitrant CVTs over the coming decade? Maybe. Most companies would have already left the market rather than launching a new crossover and compact car. Perhaps the risk-averse should look elsewhere, but they likely already have.

If you want a cheap, safe crossover with a long warranty, the Outlander should be on your list. How much are you willing to overlook for as little as $23,820 though? Maybe the PHEV will quell the noise and improve interior finish, but current buyers have a lot of provisos to consider.

Mitsubishi is probably drowning in possibilities though, so what is my advice worth? In my debut article, several commenters advised to just let my wife pick whatever she wants. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t that crossover.

When first published, this article incorrectly described the 4-cylinder engine as being a carryover from 2013. Commenter Mitsu_fan straightened me out. Displacement is unchanged, but the 2014 Outlander features a newer SOHC design relative to last year’s DOHC. My apologies for the mistake.

 

The post Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE FWD appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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