By on April 10, 2017

Mitsubishi Lancer GT

With Carlos Ghosn out as Nissan’s chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa has some well broken-in shoes to fill as the brand’s new CEO. Only ten days into the job, Saikawa says he doesn’t want to stray too far from groundwork laid by his predecessor. However, both men face an interesting problem in deciding what should be done with Mitsubishi.

Ghosn loves a fixer-upper and has already decided to dedicate much of his time to bringing Mitsubishi back from the brink, now that it’s part of the Renault–Nissan Alliance. He managed to help Nissan out of its decade-long slump in the early 2000s, so perhaps he can do the same for Mitsubishi now. However, according to Saikawa, that’s going to involve carefully assimilating the struggling automaker into the greater alliance.

That could mean taking Mitsubishi by the hand and offering it European models wearing the three-diamond emblem. 

Boosting Mitsubishi’s presence is an essential part of Nissan’s plan. While it is the master of producing affordable, utilitarian, and petite vehicles in Asia, ithas lost a lot of its clout in the North America. Mitsubishi sold 345,111 units in the United States during 2002 but only managed 96,267 deliveries in 2016. While that’s an improvement over recent years, it’s also nothing to brag about. Fortunately, the company hasn’t taken the same sort of beating globally.

“They are now a 1 million [unit] company,” Saikawa told Automotive News, referring to Mitsubishi’s global sales. “Easily they can grow to 1.5 million, hopefully 2 million. Having a partner [that is] a 2 million company is much better than having [one that is] a 1 million company … My first wish is that they should start growing, rapidly, and they should regain ground in the U.S. as soon as possible.”

When that sales growth occurs, odds are good that it will take place at joint dealerships. Saikawa claims that Nissan will likely take on Mitsubishi franchises whenever convenient, but what models will occupy those lots has yet to be decided.

We already know that Nissan has Mitsubishi in a production holding pattern as it attempts to figure out ways to share platforms among future models. The automaker already has an R&D team designated specifically for this task. However, Saikawa says that Nissan won’t simply hand over its current lineup.

It might allow Renault to do so, though.

Since the French automaker has no presence in America, it could theoretically rebrand a Renault Megane, Scenic, or Twingo as a Mitsubishi without any product overlap between the two Japanese brands.

Saikawa seems interested in focusing on the crossover fad by making use of Mitsubishi’s history as a builder of practical all-wheel-drive vehicles. He even likened the brand to Subaru — which is currently killing it in the North American market. Before the takeover, Mitsubishi was desperately trying to broaden its own crossover and utility lineup.

Regardless of how the alliance plans to position Mitsubishi, Saikawa is keeping the faith. “I believe they have a very strong future in the U.S. market,” he said.

[Image: Mitsubishi Motors]

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29 Comments on “Is Mitsubishi the Next Eagle? Nissan Ponders Joint Dealerships, Rebadged Renaults...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Rebadging Renaults as Mitsubishis in the US market – what could go wrong with that?

    The Renault Megane, Scenic, and Twingo are little *cars*, which couldn’t compete in the shrinking US market for such products, almost no matter how good they are.

    They’re out of their minds.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Which is why they would probably bring over the Captur, Kadjar, and Koleos instead (sub compact, Qashqai/Rogue Sport-sized, Rogue-sized CUVs respectively). It allows them to use Nissan platforms (synergy!) without having to spend money to develop an all new style just for Mitsubishi in the US.

      Scenic and Espace may been seen as too minivanish even without the sliding doors, but also possibilities.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @whynot
        Currently all three makes in the Alliance are No.2 Globally in sales. Toyota has jumped back to No.1. VW has dropped back to No 3 after being No 1.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    Bring back a small, basic, reliable pickup truck!

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Bring back a new Evo. Might not make a lot of money but it WILL make a lot of credibility. It’ll make a huge splash and get people talking about them again.

  • avatar

    Rear wheel drive, rear engine Mitsubishi Twingo RS?

  • avatar
    phreshone

    “outback” a AWD wagon… LPT & HPT options, Call it the Dodge or Chrysler or Fiat “Moab”

  • avatar
    Speed3

    There is no reason why they can’t leverage the Mitsubishi dealership network, but why not just sell Renaults as Renaults. I’m getting flashbacks of the awful Saabaru. But they should find a way to make this work; it seems to me like they are leaving money on the table, but then again, my philosophy has always been “I’m not gay, but $20 is $20”

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Three reasons, peculiar to the US market:

      1. The Mitsubishi dealership network is very small.
      2. Mitsubishi has much worse street cred than Nissan.
      3. Renault has much worse street cred than Mitsubishi.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      What’s left of the Mitsubishi dealership network? This ain’t the 90’s. What’s left of them are tumbledown, weed-ridden, cracked-concrete affairs that feel even sadder than any BHPH lot.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Yeah, in my area, the sales floor for the two local dealerships I know about are the most decrepit and old small sales office the dealer chain happens to have not knocked down yet, like a former Saab showroom.

        One local dealership has their “service department” as two or three bays in a nearby independent garage. I wonder what the “parts department” is? A rusty shed out back?

        I wonder if dealer chains use their Mitusbishi branches as a gauntlet for new sales personnel? “We won’t let you sell Toyota’s by the truckload until you can score two non-subprime sales in a single week at our Mitsubishi hell-hole!”

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @TMA1
        Bit better here.
        https://www.yelp.com.au/biz/paceway-mitsubishi-osborne-park

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          I was going to respond with the street view photo of a Mitsu dealer I stumbled upon once, but the photo was obviously taken in much better times. When I found it, I thought it was a used car lot. The building doubles as a fallout shelter as well.

      • 0 avatar
        WallMeerkat

        Sadly this is the case even in the UK. In the 90s my dad had a Mitsubishi van, I went with him to the dealer and saw 3000GTs (GTOs), FTOs, and the elegant Galant.

        The dealer closed down around the turn of the millenium, was empty then became a powertool hire shop.

        The only Mitsubishis I see now are the L200 pickup – popular because of tax rules it can be a commercial vehicle but in crew cab covered rear form is basically an SUV, and the inexplicably popular Outlander hybrid SUV.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Well, I guess this strategy would keep Mitsubishe from cannibalizing Nissan’s directly, but I’m still wondering “why”? Unless Renault has some truly astounding product lying around, I don’t see how selling merely average cars will revive the extremely-damaged Mitsubishi brand in the US.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Avantime or go home!

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      If we get something half that interesting, I will be amazed.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      Sadly the Avantime died a number of years ago, taking Matra (the coachbuilders who built it) with it.

      Renault UK now sell a number of small cars, including the Smart-twin rear engined Twingo, and a number of crossover SUVs.

      In the rest of Europe they do have the smart looking Megane “coupe” and Talisman sedans though, though like the UK the US is turning their backs on sedans in favour of crossovers.

      So other than the Twingo, their range has nothing of any real interest.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Are there more than a handful of people on this planet that would miss Mitsubishi if they disappeared? Yea the Evo was kind of a cool niche product, and some might be nostalgic for the old Eclipse or 3000GT, but Mitsubishi really hasn’t made any mainstream product that could be considered a “wow” in their entire history. Why spend billions trying to take share from far stronger competitors, when Nissan and Renault target the same consumers and have far stronger brands – which is not saying much since neither of them exactly sets the world on fire.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Are there more than a handful of people on this planet that would miss Mitsubishi if they disappeared?”

      Maybe elsewhere on the planet, but not in the US. At 0.7% market share, they are the smallest independent (well, until recently) brand in the US.

      35 individual vehicles outsell the Mitsubishi brand in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @stingray65
      These statements below will make Ford and GM worried as they are 7th and 5th Globally. Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi are No.2
      “Are there more than a handful of people on this planet that would miss Mitsubishi if they disappeared? ”

      “Nissan and Renault target the same consumers and have far stronger brands – which is not saying much since neither of them exactly sets the world on fire.”

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        RobertRyan – You are correct that outside of NA there are few people that want an F-Series or Silverado, but they are hugely profitable in NA. Buick has become a weak brand in the US, but is strong in China and has a strong history than car fans can appreciate (Riveria, Roadmaster, Century, GSX, etc.). Lincoln could probably also disappear without too much crying, although it too has some great cars in its past. But Mitsubishi is not a leading brand anywhere in the world, is not profitable, and has no history that anyone cares about. In contrast Ford and to lesser extent GM are strong globally, have great history (put the world on wheels, Mustang, Corvette, etc), but probably should be concerned about their relative size.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @stingray65
          Outside the US specifically , Mitsubishi does have a reasonable amount of clout..That is why Ghosn is excited to have the manufacturer on board. Their SUV’s have been good, as well as their performance sedans.
          Buick may have history in the US ,but zip anywhere else. China is an exception as the last Emporer was chauffeured around in one.
          Lincoln is nothing now, but had prescence in the early 1960’s in the US
          No Ford like GM is slowly working it’s way down the ladder. GM is now 5th( what happened to being No.1?) Ford is retreating to being a Pickup only company, now Globally ranking 7th, with the occasional fires breaking out in it’s vehicles

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Bring back the Evo; well, just because. Then make el-cheapo, few option vehicles. Think rubber floors, vinyl seats, crank windows, ac and automatics optional. Keep them as simple as possible. The kicker: 5 years/100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and free maintenance to 61,000 miles. Advertise about TCO; out-Toyota, Toyota. For a lot of people; but never the much beloved B&B, their commuter car is as exciting as getting a pair of shoes for work. 100K bumper to bumper? Someone has to go 1st.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    Wouldn’t The Dacia Duster be a easy way to bring some instant competitive product to the inexpensive CUV game?

  • avatar
    OmarCCX

    I’d buy a Mitsubishi branded Megane RS in a heartbeat!

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