By on January 19, 2017

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT – Image: Mitsubishi“People keep asking if we’re going to go away,” Mitsubishi Motors North America COO Don Swearingen told reporters earlier this month.

“We’re not.”

Seemingly anticipating yesterday’s TTAC QOTD — Does Mitsubishi Need To Exist? — Swearingen was defending Mitsubishi’s approach to the North American market following the automaker’s partial takeover by its Nissan compatriot.

Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn claimed the Mitsubishi chairmanship in October after spending $2.3 billion in exchange for 34 percent of the company’s automobile manufacturing business.

Three months later, The Detroit Bureau reports, Mitsubishi North America’s Swearingen said, “We are separate companies and will remain competitors.”

Already, Mitsubishi has decided to kill off its lone C-segment car, the Lancer, and there is apparently no intention to replace the Lancer with a rebadged Nissan Sentra.

Long dead, the Galant nameplate likely has no future as some sort of next-gen Altima twin. “We are focusing on a narrow model range of mainly SUVs,” Mitsubishi’s Osamu Masuko said in late 2015, prior to the rapid decline of America’s midsize market in 2016.

Rather, Mitsubishi intends to fill a gap early next year between the Outlander and Outlander Sport with “the best vehicle Mitsubishi has ever produced,” Swearingen says. Given the timetable, this vehicle can’t possibly be a shared effort with Nissan. Indeed, Mitsubishi design planner Kazou Yana wants Mitsubishi to now be more distinct from Nissan.

Mitsubishi and Nissan instead look forward to the long-term benefits of saving money on purchasing and logistics, The Detroit Bureau reported earlier this month.

2017 Mitsubishi L200 Triton - Image: MitsubishiWe therefore can’t look forward to three-diamond-badged variants of the Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Titan, Armada, and GT-R, not that you were looking forward to such vehicles. But Mitsubishi points to its own increasing success in the U.S. market and the company’s strength in the utility vehicle sector as a harbinger of success. While a long ways from the 345,111 new vehicles sold by the automaker in America 15 years ago, 2016’s 96,267-unit performance nevertheless represented an eight-year high for Mitsubishi in the U.S.

2016 was Mitsubishi’s fourth consecutive year of growth. Since the depths of the recession in 2009, Mitsubishi’s U.S. volume has risen 78 percent in a market that grew 68 percent during the same time period. (Mitsubishi Canada’s 2016 sales were only 411 sales shy of the brand’s all-time record set two years ago.)

Signs of rude health? Not exactly. Mitsubishi’s U.S. market share is now at 0.55 percent, down from 2.05 percent in 2002.

But the downturn appears to be over. If Mitsubishi dealers could get the pickup truck they so desire, if Mitsubishi could finally live up to its Outlander plug-in promises, and if next year’s small utility vehicle arrives on time, maybe then we’ll stop asking questions about the brand’s North American viability.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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44 Comments on “AOTD: We’re Not Going Anywhere, Mitsubishi Says...”


  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Great. Now open an repair facility that’s not combined with a Nissan and a Hardees and staff it.

    Although the curly fries are admittedly pretty good.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      down at the cerritos auto square, they turned a paint store on an adjacent street into what i called “the place where brands go to die”

      it started out being a daewoo dealership, then went to suzuki. it is now a mitsu dealer. i think there were a couple others shuffled in the interim that i dont remember.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    “We are separate companies and will remain competitors.”

    In the same way that your eight-year-old child who plays soccer is a competitor to David Beckham.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Die die die die die.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    “We are focusing on a narrow model range of mainly SUVs,”

    Ummmmm, that didn’t work out so well for Isuzu.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Yeah, but Hummer nailed it! Right?

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      Isuzu may have just been too early to the party, and Isuzu sold truck-based “true” SUV’s as opposed to the car-based CUV’s that have proeven to be popular. The Mitsubishi Outlander and Outlander Sport seem better positioned to me.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        “Die die die die die.”

        @DR86

        Exactly right and exactly why 28 hates Mitsu and CUVs. He sees unibody CUVs as a cancer that first attacks testicles.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          They definitely attack your wallet, OMP.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          In the case of Mitsubishi, they stopped trying years back and have no need to continue to exist in USDM. I have argued for years there are simply too many auto brands, and we saw a culling of superfluous brands in 2008. ’bout that time again methinks.

          “He sees unibody CUVs as a cancer that first attacks testicles.”

          CHIEF WIGGUM: Fat Tony is a cancer on this town. And I am the… [turns and looks at Lou] uh, what cures cancer?

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        their pricing is really good, and im sure theyre structurally sound vehicles with decent drivetrains. mom had an eagle summit 23 years ago and it was a decent car. its faults?

        switchgear broke a lot, the interior trim fell off, the interior itself was flimsy and the motorized mouse belt shredded its cable.

        no issues with the drivetrain or the exterior.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I mentioned this elsewhere, but the Outlander is really a fairly class competitive vehicle, kind of Nissan Rogue-ish in that you get a lot of bang for your buck, especially with the inevitable discounts. The problem is that the badge/dealer is enough to dissuade most people from even bothering. Powertrains could use a refreshing as well, but again not really any worse in real world driving than the Rogue’s 2.5NA/CVT combo in terms of refinement/acceleration. The V6 is an odd duck, not usefully faster than a competing Rav4/CRV 4cyl NA, but thirstier. It is quite smooth though.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      It should be pretty smooth, since it’s running on liquid gold 93 octane.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Another note worth making, is that the Outlander’s cargo area is very favorably shaped: longer and somewhat shallower than most competitors, with more glass space. Optimal choice for folks with dogs. I’d be curious to see what the real MPG tends to be on the V6, 224hp/215lb ft torque hardly seems worth it if it gets low-20s mpg on premium in mixed driving.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          As I recall, Mark actually considered an Outlander Sport at some point. Can’t be that bad.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/682834106/overview/

            Low mile ’15 with a 5spd, in a sharp shade of blue, cruise control, alloys and hatchback utility with some of the best subcompact CUV styling in the business, and to top it off made in the USA.

            I gotta say that’s not bad.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    For a brief moment, the Outlander Sport was on my new-car radar. On paper, it competes well with the Mazda CX-5. Both are available with FWD and a clutch. The Mitsubishi starts at $18,250 with factory rebate.

    But it’s a Mitsubishi. The one dealer within 100 miles has less class than a “Buy Here, Pay Here” lot, and tacks a $4000 ADM sticker to every vehicle. I felt like I needed a shower after I was there for 10 minutes.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Galants of any generation are more rare than Suzuki Veronas around these parts.

    I would have forgotten Mitsubishi existed if it weren’t for a neighbor owning an Endeavor.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Still a ton of early 2000s Galants prowling the inner city here, almost universally in terrible shape. A fair amount of the newer much uglier mid-late 2000s body style as well, they also tend to be disproportionately beat up for their age.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        What made me puzzle about the neighbor was when the full size spare tire went on and stayed on and stayed on and stayed on and stayed on…

        Apparently someone with a $50,000+ job didn’t have their life together enough to get a flat fixed.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “Still a ton of early 2000s Galants prowling the inner city here, almost universally in terrible shape.”

        Not just the inner city…there’s a V-6 model that’s been in my apartment complex for months, with peeling clearcoat, a broken-off passenger side mirror, plates that expired last June, and a temporary spare tire on it. For a while, the owner upgraded the temporary spare to a real tire, but alas, the temp’s back on now.

        It does give the ol’ neighborhood some ‘hood cred, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      It occurs to me that I haven’t noticed a final generation Galant in quite awhile. Maybe I’ve just tuned them out, but they seemed to have rapidly disappeared once they were no longer rental fodder.

      And thank God I no longer run the risk of getting a Galant every time I reserve “Ford Fusion or similar.”

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “just tuned them out”

        I think they truly are vehicular white noise, start looking for them and it will blow your mind, the damn things are everywhere. No real achilles heel reliability wise from what I understand, just their stereotypical owners putting them through the ringer.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “AOTD: We’re Not Going Anywhere, Mitsubishi Says”

    Well, duh. They’ve been going nowhere for years.

  • avatar
    Longshift

    If Mitsubishi does continue to exist as a separate company, then the relationship between Nissan and Mitsubishi will be similar to the relationship between Hyundai and Kia. I.e., they will sell the same basic vehicle but with different sheet metal and minor tweaks. There is no way Nissan could afford to develop entirely separate vehicles for Mitsubishi. I do think that the current Mitsubishi products will continue to be sold until the end of their lifecycles.

    If Mitsubishi wants to succeed in the U.S., they would be well-advised to get the Triton, the Pajero Sport, and the Delica over as soon as possible. Nissan has a domestic truck factory that is currently being underutilized because of poor Titan sales. Perhaps Nissan could produce the Triton there if the Chicken Tax is preventing the Triton from being imported.

    If Mitsubishi does add another CUV, it should be a mid-sizer like the departed Endeavor or a large CUV like the Pilot. There is no gap in size between the Outlander and the Outlander Sport that needs filling.

    Also, they should just drop the i MiEV. They only sold 94 of them in the U.S. last year, so they must be losing money on them.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Daimler-Chrysler 1998 press release: We have great future plans for the Plymouth brand.

    GM 2002 press release: Oldsmobile will remain a key member of the GM family for another 100 years.

    Ford headquarters 2009 press release: Just wait and see the great things we have planned for the Mercury brand.

    Suzuki Auto US 2011 press release: The future is bright for for Suzuki USA.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      “I’m getting better!”

      “No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      So true! When you need press releases to tell people you still have a pulse its already too late. If I worked at Mitsubishi I’d spend my time using their internet connection to email blast my resume while the office budget still included free coffee.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Imagine if there had been PR flacks in 1966 in South Bend, Indiana: Our new and improved Studebakers are going to the best vehicles we’ve made in our 115 year history and 1967 is shaping up to be our greatest year ever!

      Of course someone would have to remind him that they no longer had much or an engineering department or that they had closed their U.S. factories three years ago but why would reality suddenly intrude into the world of PR?

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Mitsui is no longer relevant. Thanks to a series of corporate screw ups ,and lack of product Mitsubishi has no market left. Can it Be turned around? It would take new , better product and ten or fifteen years as far as North America goes. Even then it’s a very weak maybe.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …2016 was Mitsubishi’s fourth consecutive year of growth…

    Isn’t the financing requirements at Mitsubishi basically your ability to leave a wet mark on a mirror when held up to your mouth?

  • avatar
    Elliot86

    If Mitsubishi should leave then so should Fiat, mini, and volvo…Mitsu sold more cars last year than fiat and mini. If Chrysler didn’t have dodge and jeep under its umbrella all they have is an ancient 300 and a minivan in the show room.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Where I live, there is a Mitsubishi dealer and a Subaru dealer beside each other and both are owned by the same company with connecting parking lots.

    Tons of turnover on the Subaru lot, but look about 500 feet to the left and the same Outlanders and Outlander Sports just sit there and sit there.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Unlike Isuzu, in this crossover/SUV/pick-up driven market, Mitsu might be able to survive without a lineup of sedans, but they would still need competitive products and the biggest cost-drivers are platform and power-train development, which Mitsu continually falls behind with, which would only get worse as there is the need to develop a hybrid, PHEV and EV, if not invest in things like fuel cell in order to “future-proof” oneself.

    Mitsu Motors does not have the resources to do all that and they don’t have enough sales in other markets to support the development of mid-large crossover models that sell well in the US.

    Ghosn is not known as the “cost-cutter” for no reason, so as Longshift stated above, eventually will likely see a Hyundai-Kia relationship (except maybe limited to crossovers, SUVs and maybe a pick-up).

    Just as well as Mitsu already sells both variants (regular and LWB) of the Infiniti Q70 in Japan as the Mitsu Proudia and Dignity.

    An interesting note about the Proudia and Dignity – the 1st gen models were developed in conjunction with Hyundai and were also sold as the 1st gen Equus/Centennial.

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