What's Next For Mitsubishi USA?
Mitsubishi USA is looking to stave off their American extinction, with new ad spending and even – get this – new product. The only question is, what exactly can they bring?
Along with a significant TV and digital ad campaign, Mitsubishi is looking to help rejuvenate their aging lineup. First up will be the all-new Outlander which, according to TTAC sources, is a good first step, but not exactly class leading. Next up will be their new Thai-built global subcompact, which has been the subject of plenty of discussion at TTAC. And then what?
Automotive News spoke to Masatoshi Hasegawa, Mitsubishi’s US car chief, who recognized the predicament being faced by the ailing auto maker. Hasegawa dropped a couple of hints as to their future product direction, stating
“We are looking into a possibility for the [mid-sized sedan] segment, and we may look into maybe a bigger brother to the Outlander”
Next up for Mitsubishi is a replacement for the aging Lancer, being previewed at the Bangkok Motor Show with the Concept G4 (shown above). As for the mid-size sedan and bigger SUV, Mitsubishi has precisely zero of these products even in the pipeline, and it’s hard to imagine that they have the development dollars lying around. A look at Mitsubishi Japan’s website is particularly telling – aside from the Lancer and Lancer Evo, the only other sedans in its lineup are the Proudia and Dignity, rebadged Infiniti M sedans. And the only larger SUV is the rugged but dated Pajero.
Mitsubishi missed many chances to recover. Kia is a great example - their cars were more dull and boring than even Mitsubishi and their reliability was also sub-par. But after hiring the former Audi design chief it was clear that Good design can save a sub-par automaker. Kia's sales are setting records in a down market. And their cars look outstanding. Friends of mine who would never consider a Kia just 3 years ago are putting them at the top of the list. But Mitsubishi's biggest problem is lack of dealerships. I just sold my 2008 Evolution X GSR. A fantastic car which was trouble-free for 55k miles. The handling was better than prior cars I've owned (wrx, 3-series, g35 coupe, ...). One by one though, my closest dealerships were taking dropping the Mitsubishi brand. 3 this past year. I didn't want to be left with an unserviceable car - so I reluctantly sold it.
Mitsu's current lineup is like the menu at a Scottish restaurant. Not much in it, and nothing you'd want.
Personally I think over the years they've had some great designs, but there stagnate now. There little electric is well thought out but prohibitively expensive. I think they need to find a partner. Sergio is right any auto maker that doesn't get up to selling 5 million units a year is going to be left out in the cold.
Mitsubishi's already done the come back thing before. Not once but twice. First time was a product renaissance led by the first-gen Diamante/Sigma/Magna, with the 3000GT as a halo car. Second time was the "Project America" platform (the 2000s Galant/Endeavor/Eclipse) and that was largely based on marketing and financial incentives. The "possibility" they mentioned is really just another Project America. Build 2-3 models off a larger platform, use the IL factory. These will be standard everyman cars in the US,upscale luxury in China, and other regions can get them on a case-by-case basis. The alternative is to reskin other people's cars in fine Austin-Rover style, just to have stuff out in the market. I think Mitsubishi must've hoped to do this with Peugeot platforms, but Peugeot just didn't have the $ for a relationship. Each time Mitsubishi's staged a comeback or product offensive, they've always been less than effective. Everyone else got either more sales or more street cred. In the past they've coasted on the Chrysler connection and never figured out their wishy-washy management, Jackie Chan endorsement deal, or their proper place in the market. The past decade these ghosts have caught up with them...is all I can say.