Mitsubishi's Crazy Plan For America

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Monty Monty on Dec 04, 2012

    "Well, it's so crazy that it just might work!" one of the great cheesy lines in movie history - recycled here for Mitsubishi.

  • Sbunny8 Sbunny8 on Jan 01, 2013

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

  • Tassos those 90s pathetic orange pixels are inexcusably lame in a 2010.The interior is filled with Grey Rubbermaid plastic and the tiny sliver of real or fake wood is an utterly pathetic attempt to pretend it's upscale (don't even THINK of "Luxury")Merc SLs with similar metal retractable roofs look so much better inside and out.Regardless of what you paid for this way undepowered near-luxury pretend-sports car, you would have done so much better with a PORSCHE BOXSTER...
  • Dukeisduke That's a cool picture (the one under the bridge) - where was it taken? Google Image Search doesn't turn up any matches.
  • Dukeisduke Okay, yeah, they should fix this, but, "URGENT: DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE"? I think we're reaching Peak Idiocracy.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is a great review, and very accurate from my perspective as the owner of a closely related, but longer and taller, E93 335i convertible. So much in this review is familiar. Here are the things that are a bit different about the 335i:[list][*]My car is a manual. Shifter action is good, with positive engagement, although a bit more play and rubbery feeling in the shifter than you would get with, say, a six-speed Honda. The clutch is a bit disappointing. It has a "clutch dampening valve" intended to protect against the most abusive clutch dumps. The valve throws my timing off a bit and I have had a hard time learning to drive this car with perfect smoothness, especially in the 1-2 shift. I may remove the valve at some point.[/*][*]My car has the turbo (in single-turbo N55 form). On the plus side, you get what feels like significantly more power than the rated 300 hp once on the boost, and even in fully stock form you get entertaining whooshing noises from the blowoff valve. On the minus side, there is some turbo lag, more than you get in many modern turbo cars, and fuel economy is, well, not close to what Corey is getting. The turbo car also comes with an active exhaust system that is extremely quiet when puttering while making some nice inline-six noise at wide-open throttle.[/*][*]There are back seats! I have a nine-year-old and a six-year-old. The six-year-old fits perfectly. The nine-year-old still fits, but that will likely change within the next three years. These seats are not usable for adults unless the front-seat occupants squeeze forward more than normal. E92 coupes are slightly roomier in back, and E90 sedans are substantially roomier.[/*][*]My car has the M Sport suspension, which does not have variable dampers. It's firm enough that I have to be careful to avoid even small holes on city streets if I don't want to get jarred. But if you can avoid the holes it feels good, navigating expansion joints and such without uncomfortable impact, while maintaining impressive body control for a porky 3900-pound convertible.[/*][*]My car has iDrive and a screen, as well as parking sensors. But it does not have a backup camera. Graphics on the screen are pretty good by 2011 standards, which is to say not acceptable by modern standards, but the system is easy enough to navigate and works pretty well. I prefer the rotary controller to a touch screen for fingerprint reasons.[/*][*]The parking sensors are by far the best of any car I've ever owned, and they are so accurate I really don't need a camera. The sensors go to a solid beep when the appropriate end is about 4" from an object, and I can comfortably cover about half that distance with no fear of bumping. They also project legimately useful graphics on the iDrive screen showing where the object is. I park in tight city settings enough that I really appreciate the accuracy. Also in the city parking mold, my car has power folding mirrors, which I wish every car would.[/*][*]Like you, I have the mid-level "Hi-Fi Professional" stereo setup, but in the four-seat convertible there is not a dedicated subwoofer. Bass is a bit on the weak side. Sound quality is about comparable with the JBL system in my Toyota Highlander, which is to say it's good enough for listening in the car but is not going to impress anyone.[/*][*]There are small leaks from the joints between the top and the A-pillars in my car. They won't soak the interior, but they will result in a few drops of water on the front seats after a hard rain. I'm still experimenting to see if regular applications of rubber protectant can restore the seals enough to eliminate the leaks. There are no leaks from any other part of the top mechanism.[/*][*]I've only owned the car for about eight months and 1500 miles, but so far nothing has broken and every feature on the car works correctly. A purchase-time inspection found only an incorrectly secured fan shroud and no other problems, and there is a mostly complete service history, so this was a well-maintained car to start with.[/*][/list]
  • Lou_BC This offer reminds me of those plans where you get something free but if you fail to cancel prior to the expiry of the "Free" plan you end up on the hook for a lengthy contract. Tesla wants to attract people to their electrical company. It's smart. Make money selling the car, make money with subscription services on the car, and make money selling the fuel to power the car at home and at charging stations.