2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV's Arrival Equals Good News and Bad News

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
2018 mitsubishi outlander phev s arrival equals good news and bad news

Mitsubishi is by no means starting from scratch in the U.S. market — the product lineup is much too stale for that. But with a new marketing agency, Butler Shine Stern & Partners, coming on board and a new crossover, the Eclipse Cross, set to arrive at dealers soon, Mitsubishi is clearly not in the same position in 2017 that it was in 2009.

2017 is set to be fifth consecutive year in which Mitsubishi’s U.S. volume improves and the first year since 2007 in which Mitsubishi sells more than 100,000 vehicles. That’s still a far cry from 2002, when Mitsubishi sold 345,000 vehicles, but Mitsubishi has reasons to be pleased with the growth.

Perhaps more than any other change at Mitsubishi’s U.S. operations, however, the arrival of the plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander symbolizes a new day for Mitsubishi Motors North America. It is, after all, finally here after years of delay, and it’s an exclusive product for Mitsubishi’s dealers, free from direct competition. Yet while the dawn of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV speaks of further commitment to the U.S. market, it’s not by any means about to become a popular vehicle.

According to Automotive News, Mitsubishi is expecting to sell between 3,000-4,000 plug-in Outlanders per year. For perspective, consider that the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid attracts more than 4,000 U.S. buyers per month.

But Mitsubishi anticipates limited demand for the Outlander PHEV, a relatively popular crossover in many global markets, and will therefore rely upon the model to simply leave an impression. After all, it won’t be long before there will be direct competitors for the plug-in Outlander. “Some of our competitors will be out in the next few years with something similar,” Mitsubishi Motors North America executive vice president Don Swearingen says, “and we want to make sure we make a mark.”

The Outlander PHEV has the potential to excite dealers who’ve lacked unique offerings, even if they won’t be selling the vehicle in large numbers. “We have some dealers that are doing fabulous, and we have some dealers that are a little disengaged,” Swearingen tells Automotive News. Mitsubishi has U.S. dealers that sell 100-200 vehicles per month, the company says, yet the average monthly volume for a Mitsubishi dealer is around 25 units. Yet to date, 15 percent of Mitsubishi’s dealers have not signed on with the necessary chargers and training to be an official Outlander PHEV outlet. Mitsubishi wants all dealers on board, however, as Swearingen considers the plug-in Outlander to be the brand’s new halo model.

While the Outlander PHEV has little potential to boost Mitsubishi’s overall sales volume, Swearingen sees plenty of potential elsewhere. For starters, the Eclipse Cross is landing in the heart of the SUV sector’s growth market. But Mitsubishi could also become more active in the fleet market. Only 11 percent of the vehicles Mitsubishi sells are to fleets, but Swearingen would be content with a retail/fleet mix of 82/18, if only as a means of growing brand awareness.

[Image: Mitsubishi Motors]

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

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5 of 10 comments
  • Ydnas7 Ydnas7 on Oct 10, 2017

    the arrival of mass market 200mile EVs will put pressure on the PHEV but AWD SUV plugin it will sell, and bring in very desirable tradeins for the Mitsubishi dealers. the real gold for dealers is that people will trade in Mercedes and Audi to get the Mitsubishi PHEV. (at least that is what happened in UK) the sales estimate is low ball, this will sell very well for an Mitsubishi.

    • See 1 previous
    • N8iveVA N8iveVA on Oct 11, 2017

      The Outlander is a mediocre product at best. I bet most premium vehicle owners don't even know that Mitsubishi still even exists in the US market.

  • RHD RHD on Oct 11, 2017

    Are Mitsubishis built with Kobe Steel?

    • Elliot86 Elliot86 on Oct 11, 2017

      Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Subaru all use Kobe Steel

  • Inside Looking Out You should care. With GM will die America. All signs are there. How about the Arsenal of Democracy? Toyota?
  • DenverMike What else did anyone think, when GM was losing tens of billions a year, year after year?
  • Bill Wade GM says they're killing Android Auto and Apple Carplay. Any company that makes decisions like that is doomed to die.
  • Jeff S I don't believe gm will die but that it will continue to shrink in product and market share and it will probably be acquired by a foreign manufacturer. I doubt gm lacks funds as it did in 2008 and that they have more than enough cash at hand but gm will not expand as it did in the past and the emphasis is more on profitability and cutting costs to the bone. Making gm a more attractive takeover target and cut costs at the expense of more desirable and reliable products. At the time of Farago's article I was in favor of the Government bailout more to save jobs and suppliers but today I would not be in favor of the bailout. My opinions on gm have changed since 2008 and 2009 and now I really don't care if gm survives or not.
  • Kwik_Shift I was a GM fan boy until it ended in 2013 when I traded in my Avalanche to go over to Nissan.