By on September 22, 2017

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross - Image: MitsubishiBetween its peak in 2002 and the depths of the recession in 2009, Mitsubishi’s U.S. sales plunged 84 percent. Market share plunged from more than 2 percent to less than half of 1 percent. Could the company survive in America?

The loss of product gave observers even more reason to doubt the brand’s staying power. Bigger SUVs such as the Montero and Endeavor disappeared. Mitsubishi’s midsize sedan, the Galant, generated its final sales in early 2014, a decade after the Mitsubishi Diamante departed. The discontinuation of the Eclipse and Lancer Evolution spelled the end of Mitsubishi’s performance bona fides. Then Mitsubishi also ended the Lancer, leaving the Mirage G4 to fight America’s sedan battle.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi’s plans to bolster its U.S. lineup haven’t always translated to reality. The Outlander plug-in hybrid was initially bound for the U.S. market in 2014 or 2015 — it’s still not here. As for U.S. production, which Mitsubishi’s president Osamu Masuko said in 2013 would not end, the final U.S.-built Mitsubishi rolled off the Illinois line last year.

Despite the heavy load of evidence that would support the belief that Mitsubishi Motors USA was on its death bed, Mitsubishi is on track in 2017 to sell 100,000 vehicles in the U.S. for the first time since 2007, having enjoyed five consecutive years of growth. Settling in for the long haul, Mitsubishi has also signed Mini’s old ad agency, Butler Shine Stern & Partners.

According to Automotive News, Butler Shine Stern & Partners’ surrendered its contract with BMW’s Mini brand, which it had held since 2005, earlier this year. Sharp cost-cutting from Mini removed some duties from BSSP and shoved them back to BMW’s main agency, Universal McCann. Regular mandated reviews of what California-based BSSP called a “very strong” 11-year relationship may have begun to chafe, as well.

Nevertheless, BSSP garnered attention for campaigns such as the Mini Clubman’s Defy Labels, a Super Bowl effort that centered on athletes such as Serena Williams, Tony Hawk, and Randy Johnson; a sometimes edgy campaign featuring Abby Wambach, as well.2017 Mini Defy Labels Superbowl Ad Abby Wambach - Image: MiniIt’s difficult to imagine Mitsubishi heading in a similar direction, but for a brand with few attention-grabbing cars, an attention-grabbing marketing campaign wouldn’t go amiss. Until the Eclipse Cross launches as part of Mitsubishi’s growing crossover lineup, the brand is relying on the Mirage (up 5 percent to 16,804 sales so far this year), Outlaner Sport (down 9 percent to 20,874), and Outlander (up 33 percent to 23,260) to capture the minds of U.S. buyers.

For the past seven years, Mitsubishi was linked with Omnicom-owned 180LA. The brand’s last major marketing splash involved a link-up between the 2018 Eclipse Cross and August 21’s solar eclipse. Make of that what you will.

[Images: Mitsubishi Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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14 Comments on “Hiring a New Marketing Agency Isn’t a Sign That Mitsubishi’s Leaving America...”

  • avatar

    “Despite the heavy load of evidence that would support the belief that Mitsubishi Motors USA was on its death bed”

    Whatever ‘evidence’ that was? On the ground, in the real world, I’ve seen the local Mitsu dealer do brisk business from its new building for three years now.

  • avatar

    Shall they cross the evo as well?

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi sold just under 1 million vehicles last year so they have a lot of global volume and the US already is not that important of a market to it. The company will be fine because it was taken over by Nissan. I read that once including Mitsubishi’s global 2016 sales with Nissan-Renault’s total, the new company would have been 4,000 units shy of GM. They might sell more than GM globally in 2017.

    I’m not sure what value Nissan gets by reviving the brand in the US. It might be expensive to pull out completely and square away with dealers. If it were up to me, I would swap out Mitsubishi and five the dealers Renault instead.

  • avatar

    Now Mitsubishi just needs to bring back the “Sign and Drive” program , with no payments for one year!

  • avatar

    There must be some reason for this article, but I can’t see it.

    Nissan is running Mitsubishi Motors now, so what’s happened with the latter in the last three or four years in North America is irrelevant.

    Renault-Nissan, including Mitsubishi, is now the Number One auto maker in the world by unit volume, and sales are reported for the conglomerate as a whole . So whatever Nissan (Ghosn) dictates through his new CEO is what is going to occur.

    If the article had speculated on that, rather than rehash all the past ills of Mitsubishi as a lone player, it might have been worth reading.

    As it is, meh. If you’re a contributing analyst, contribute something that makes some sense, I say.

  • avatar

    I wonder if Nissan will view Mitsubishi as their value product. They seem to be trying to go a bit up-market. Maybe send Altima and versa buyers to Mitsubishi?

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t selling the ASX compact crossover in the US significantly increase Mitsubishi’s sales volume, considering they lack an entry in that market segment?

    • 0 avatar

      You mean the Outlander Sport?

      • 0 avatar

        I learn so much from you B&Bs. :)
        In my mind, I associated the Outlander Sport with the RVR and I thought they were bigger than the ASX. My bad.

        • 0 avatar

          3-letter names with no meaning to the acronym are useless for consumers. What the heck is an ASX? What does HRV mean? TSX? MDX? XTS?
          There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language. Lots of them would make great car names. If that’s too difficult, just use place names, like Hyundai does, or make up a word, end it with an A, a la Achieva (retch), Leganza (ugh), Elantra or Altima.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi seems to have lucked into this insatiable demand for CUVs with their lineup, the Outlander and Outlander Sport aren’t the best in their segment, but they aren’t as bad as some here seem to assume them to be. I test drove an Outlander GT V6 a few years back. Not really better or worse to drive than a ’14 Rogue or Rav4 or CRV at the time, although the low-power Premium fuel V6 really didn’t have much more usable power or response around town than a well tuned naturally aspirated 4 cylinder. My experience with a prior gen Outlander with CVT+4cyl was less positive, even the Rogue manages to be more refined in terms of engine NVH.

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