By on June 10, 2017

Mitsubishi Lancer GT, Image: Mitsubishi Motors

If you were to walk into a Mitsubishi showroom in the United States today, you’d be treated to two passenger cars, two utility vehicles and promises of more utility vehicles to come. Why, the 2018 Eclipse Cross is on the way! You know, the compact crossover named after a entry-level sports car?

If you’re looking for a Mitsubishi-branded car with more than three cylinders that won’t be extinct in a few months, you’re out of luck. In fact, if you’re hoping for any word on whether the brand will ever bring a new car to North America, you’ll have to wait until this fall, around the same time the long-in-the-tooth Lancer bows out of the U.S. market.

As the automaker, newly acquired by the Renault-Nissan Alliance, figures out what to do with itself, passenger cars have become an afterthought. The Galant and Diamante are dusty memories. The Lancer stops production in August (though the nameplate will continue on in China and Taiwan). There’s far more money in crossovers and SUVs, so that’s Mitsubishi’s main focus. Actually, hearing Mitsubishi CEO Trevor Mann tell it, that seems to be the only focus.

Speaking to Australia’s CarAdvice, Mann claims he’d like to see the brand remain in the car business, but nothing’s set in stone.

“I think we could not not focus on SUV, if you know what I mean,” said Mann. “We’ve got to focus on SUVs, because, one; it’s where our strength and heritage is, and, two; it’s where the market is going – not only in Australia, but globally.”

No argument there. The U.S. and Canadian public’s appetite for utility vehicles seems insatiable. However, that’s not to say no one bought the Lancer. While it’s a far cry from the sales figures posted back in 2002, over 14,000 Americans bought a Lancer last year, even as other compact cars outclassed it in terms of efficiency and power. As well, Mitsubishi says it has no plans to oust the subcompact Mirage from the continent, thanks to buyers looking to get behind the wheel of a new car for as little cash as possible. Over 22,000 of the tiny three-pots found a U.S. home last year.

Surely the brand can’t soldier on with just a subcompact as its only passenger car offering? Given market direction, it’s not a ridiculous notion. Earlier this year, Mann told Automotive News, “The answer to your prayers is not just adding nameplates. You’ve got to make sure the nameplates you’ve got are working for you.”

The CEO claimed a joint pickup venture with Nissan made sense for the American market, though he wouldn’t rule out the return of a sedan. Given the incredibly shrinking U.S. midsize market, it’s safe to say any new car would find itself in the compact class.

“The long debate is what do we do with the passenger car segment, where we’ve got a strong heritage product with Lancer,” Mann told CarAdvice.

The Lancer remains popular in Australia and Canada, and both countries hope to sell it as long as possible. North of the border, Lancers could languish in new car inventories until early 2018.

Before Mitsubishi can plan for a new North American car, it first must decide where the vehicle will come from. Now that the company has access to Renault-Nissan platforms and production facilities, it needs to ask itself how “Mitsubishi” it really needs to be. Going it alone left few options. Now, the company has several.

It looks like Mitsubishi brass will spend the summer brainstorming.

“We’ve have to crystallise this for when we announce the mid-term plan in October,” he said. “It’ll be announced then, but it’ll crystallise before then.”

[Image: Mitsubishi Motors]

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22 Comments on “With the Clock Ticking, Mitsubishi’s Passenger Car Future is Still a Blank Slate...”

  • avatar

    Suzuki made a joint venture on a Nissan pickup too, seemed to work out great.

    • 0 avatar

      Suzuki rebadged a Nissan truck.

      That’s not the same as a joint-venture (where both automakers design and market the vehicle from the beginning).

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi – for people with credit ratings so poor they can’t get financing at Nissan or Dodge.

  • avatar

    From what I’ve read, the über-cheap Mirage is selling quite well and something of a surprise hit for Mitsubishi. Rather ironic since most of the reviews I’ve seen for the poor little wart haven’t been good. IIRC, it was even on one of those ‘worst cars ever’ lists. For the money, I don’t think it’s anywhere near that bad.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mirage is one of those cars that car reviewers simply can’t wrap their heads around–most fail miserably in trying to place it properly within the market and fathoming its appeal. If you only read or watch the reviews, you’d think it was a piece of garbage. But peruse the forums and read owner reviews on KBB and other sites, and you’ll realize that it succeeds superbly at its goal of providing cheap and reliable transportation.

      • 0 avatar

        Lol and no other cars succeed in their goal of offering cheap and reliable transportation that doesn’t utterly suck? They all do, all are preferable to this.

        I recently considered a new Mirage. Until I found out that for $2k more, the Kia Soul has a TON of standard equipment, more room and more power. Both were base models with 0 options, not even automatic trans which is usually standard fare (as in popular, not literally standard. It wasn’t easy to find these manual-trans models for comparison). In which case I’d still prefer the Soul for its 6AT over the Mirage’s rubber band trans. The Soul had alloys (16″ instead of 14″), 6 speeds instead of 5, 4 cylinders instead of 3, lots more connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, etc. For around $2 grand more! Why anyone would choose the Mitsubishi over it or any other vehicle in that price range is beyond me.

        I agree with Flybrian. People out there pretending that its some great car are delusional. There isn’t one single new car out there that is worse than the Mirage. Its cheap for the sake of being cheap. Its “great!” for those who couldn’t tell you the difference between it and a 911. For anyone else, there are plenty of better options. Its tiny, ugly, slow, handles like a shopping cart and its only saving grace is its MPG…except the turbocharged Fiesta 1.0L is a $#¡Г-ton more fun to drive, easier to live with, and gets better mileage.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mirage is a pile of crap, but you’re forgetting that most people are not buying this because it’s some hip young urban mobile like Mitsubishi would like to pretend it is nor it’s it an ‘elemental return to the basics of cardom’ or whatever Jalopnik likes to spew, rather because A) they qualify for it, B) its replacing an even older, even worse turd, C) they just need a CAR.

      The Mirage I sold most recently went to a 55 year-old medical biller who lives with her adult son, wanted a little more room for her weekend gardening stuff, and was tired of feeding her 139k-mile ’03 Maxima premium fuel for her 20 mile daily commute. Now she has a late model car that’s cheaper on insurance, gets far better mileage, and a warranty.

  • avatar

    Well, since they don’t have strong design language or overall identity they could sell rebadged Renaults! they’re both under the same company and Renaults Europe lineup covers almost every segment that Nissan usa does

  • avatar

    The number of people pining away for a new Mitsubishi car would fit in a current Mitsubishi car. For a company with limited resources like Mitsubishi they’re better off focusing on growth segments like CUV’s.

  • avatar

    So after reading this article I can conclude that Canadians and Australians are even poorer (and/or have worse credit rating) than Americans approaching China/Taiwan level. But do not underestimate American’s appetite for mediocre products taking into account increasing popularity of Nissan in USA.

    • 0 avatar

      Technically, Canadians and Australians do have marginally lower GDP PPP per capita–about 10,000 less–but this is a negligible difference globally speaking; all three economies are considered high-income developed markets. Taiwan and China are slightly different; Taiwan is the roughly the same PPP (purchasing power parity) adjusted level as Canada and Australia, but China is only approaching high-income level GDP PPP per capita in the very richest cities–Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai, and even then, it’s below Southern European standards.

  • avatar

    I hate to say it, but with Mitsubishi going, and Suzuki all but gone (as is Isuzu), could Mazda be far behind?

    • 0 avatar

      I’d hate to say all that too, since Suzuki IS gone from this market (and has been for several years, but is doing fine elsewhere), and Mitsubishi, now with strong financial support from Renault-Nissan, is not pulling out of our market.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda still has its market niche, as does Subaru, I hope, which is the car for people who enjoy driving a car. Mazda cars remain fairly stylish. I just wish, Mazda did give us a little bit more in the engine power department.

      Mitsubishi on the other hand, always suffered from ugly styling and outdated technology. They didn’t have a “signature product” other than Lancer Evo, the car that’s designed to capture the imagination of cashless community college students as anyone more mature and successful would realize that the same money can buy you a pre-owned BMW or Lexus, which makes one attractive to the opposite sex while still being fun to drive.

  • avatar

    That press shot above is gorgeous though and who else is still selling a 15 year old car with a modicum of success? For all the constant “isn’t Mitsubishi dead yet”-articles on the car web, I’m actually somewhat impressed that they soldier on.

    Also, here in Norway, the Outlander is among the most popular cars in the country. Wee tiny numbers as we’re only about 5 million people, but the PHEV especially sells like hot cakes: It’s cheap, and reliable enough for the first owner.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota sells plenty of decade+ old models, just with refreshed styling that keeps you thinking it’s updated.

      I’m not sure what is impressive about selling terrible vehicles to people with terrible credit, when they used to make decent vehicles that people of nearly any financial means found acceptable (speaking of vehicles like Montero and earlier cars that were desirable, not the awful crap like Endeavour or the junk they peddle now).

  • avatar

    Let it die! Mitsubishi deserves to die. It stood for poor customer relations , lack up updates , and a host of hidden defects that they were all to willing to hide. Add in poor styling , weak dealers , and a lack of a full product line, and it seems obvious. Having purchased two Mitsubishi’s new (84 & 90) I had first hand experience. Die!

  • avatar

    The funny thing about the perception of Mitsubishi cars having poorer than Toyota reliability is that I often recall my brother’s basic Lancer from 2005 with the 2.0 SOHC engine and 5-speed manual transmission. The car was neglected its whole life, had oil changes done at every 10 thousand miles, at best, using conventional oil, never had its timing belt replaced, was in a couple of accidents, and yet the drivetrain kept running strong, like new until the moment he got rid of it, which was about 150,000 miles. AC run like new. At that point, the car’s suspension was shot and needed a rebuild, and together with the cost of replacing the timing belt and the clutch pack (so we’re looking at the cost of repairs of 1500-2000USD, which exceeds the market value of the whole car), he just decided it’s better just to donate this to a charity in exchange for a 500 dollar tax credit.

    • 0 avatar

      Ok, setting aside the whole “sample size of one” issue, your post contradicts itself within one paragraph. You basically admit the car was falling apart, but so long as the engine ran it was “reliable?”

      This is why Internet Car People are so irritating. Someone will call a decrepit old Mitsubishi which is coming apart “reliable” then turn around and natter on about how FCA makes “unreliable” vehicles.

      • 0 avatar

        Jim what is there to not understand here? The likely 10+ year old car with 150k miles probably needed struts and maybe some control arm bushings/swaybar links and a clutch (could be heavy city use, but 150k ain’t too terrible for a clutch). Finally it needed a long-neglected timing belt (Mitsu was still on a 60k regimen then).

        Compare that to something like Edmunds’ long term Dart that was a steaming pile of poo with less than 10k miles on it, the multitude of transmission issues on early release 9spd autos, widespread head replacement on early Pentastar 3.6s, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Struts, springs, steering end links, timing belt, and the clutch park (on cars with manual trans) are basically a wearable item, just like say brake pads or spark plugs.

  • avatar

    Being in the market for a car right now, I drove a Lancer GTS. Honestly, I liked it reasonably well. It’s still on my list of possibilities, so I may end up with one. I hope Mits gets something Lancer-like, at least, in its lineup in the future. It would be sad if Mits turned into a trucklet-only maker.

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