By on November 13, 2017

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Image: Mitsubishi

It’s hard to go anywhere without hearing it. Co-workers whispering at the water cooler, long waits at the drive-thru window while the staff argues amongst itself. It’s hard to get a word in edgewise.

People are talking about Mitsubishi.

If you’ve called #fakenews on this, well, you’re right. But that isn’t to say no one’s talking about the down-on-its-luck automaker, which recently saw salvation at the hands of the Nissan-Renault Alliance. There’s more vehicles coming to the threadbare brand and, while the company’s focus remains on lucrative SUVs, that doesn’t mean Mitsubishi won’t flesh out the lineup with something traditional.

Now operating under the Alliance corporate umbrella, Mitsubishi plans to mainly go it alone on the product front for the rest of the decade. At that point, platform sharing is expected to ramp up. In the meantime, the company wants to “re-energize” its dealer network, boost profit margins, and grow U.S. sales by 30 percent by 2020.

Much of the heavy lifting (in terms of sales and PR) will come from the vastly delayed Outlander PHEV and poorly named Eclipse Cross compact crossover.

But then what? Automotive News put that question to CEO Osamu Masuko.

First off, Masuko said selling 120,000 units in the U.S. — a figure last reached in 2007 (and nearly a third of the volume the brand saw in 2002) — shouldn’t be difficult. Citing the two aforementioned models, the CEO said “the number of dealers will increase, and the performance of the business itself is going to improve. So if we do all these things, then we can hit the target. I think it’s possible.”

As for product, Masuko said, “After 2020, the impact of synergies will come to life.” While R&D efforts (and spending) will remain focused on utility vehicles, corporate sibling Nissan might have something to offer the brand.

“For example, common platforms and powertrains will be utilized. And there are going to be models on these common platforms and powertrains,” Masuko said. “In that situation, I think there will be opportunities to introduce a Mitsubishi sedan in the U.S.”

Of course, this assumes there’s even a market for sedans in 2020. But if a four-door passenger car does emerge from the partnership, it won’t be purely Mitsubishi-developed, nor will it be a badge-engineered knock-off.

“The design will be completely different,” the CEO claims. “We would like to clearly differentiate our models and show the special characteristics of each company.”

Sedans are no longer the major draw they once were, but the possibility of a pickup might perk up the ears of an increasingly utility-minded America. After offering such small pickups as the Mighty Max in the U.S., Mitsubishi’s last truck was the Dodge Dakota-based Raider. Introduced at a very bad time, the Raider proved a sales failure, biting the dust in 2009.

It’s clear from the interview that Masuko isn’t sold on the idea. Historically and currently (the L200/Triton), Mitsubishi sells little trucks, and that doesn’t necessarily go over well with American truck buyers. Still, the presence of Nissan might make it easy for Mitsubishi to field a version of its sibling’s midsize pickup.

“So for the U.S., if there is an opportunity, we might get it from Nissan,” Masuko said. “We would like to consider if there are opportunities from within the Alliance. We haven’t decided on a pickup, but there is a possibility.”

We know there’s a next-generation Nissan Frontier in the works, and Nissan is plenty okay with having other badges appear on its products. The much more modern overseas-market Navara does double duty as the Renault Alaskan and Mercedes-Benz X-Class, after all. However, it isn’t yet known whether the next-gen Frontier will simply be a Mississippi-made Navara or a heavily revamped current-gen Frontier.

In either case, there’s nothing stopping Mitsubishi from adding its own badge to the grille.

[Image: Mitsubishi]

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18 Comments on “Mitsubishi’s Future: Go Big on SUVs, but a Sedan and Pickup Remains a Possibility...”

  • avatar

    What’s next from Mitsubishi?

    Asked no one. Ever.

    • 0 avatar

      In my town, Mitsu dealers are the new car version of a BHPH lot.
      Anybody there is buying the deal, not the iron.

      A guy I know works at a local bank that they do biz with, and he says most of the prospective customers never get past the credit score stage.

      Hope springs eternal.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi’s 3 steps to relevance would be the following:

    – Galant
    – Lancer
    – Colt

    • 0 avatar

      In a market that shuns sedans from established players, yes, that would be a great way to stock rental lots, since even Hyundai is turning away from fleet sales.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler should have made a deal to sell Mitsu the 200 and Dart for dirt cheap. With their badge engineering history, though in reverse this time, there’s your Galant and Colt.

      Knowing Sergio, he probably tried…

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    What does Mitsubishi bring to the table that isn’t already represented in the Nissan brand? They have one B segment car and a couple of SUV’s – that’s it. I cannot see the point of Nissan in North America wasting their marketing money on a brand name that almost nobody cares about. There is nothing about Mitsubishi that can’t be successfully done under the Nissan brand.

    • 0 avatar

      Such as the Suzuki Equator. A Suzuki-branded Frontier and a complete failure.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, no extraordinary circumstances had anything to do with that, such as Suzuki having never sold a truck in this market before, then introducing the truck right in the midst of the great recession, having no financial backer to properly market the truck and finally Suzuki pulling out of the North American market completely a couple years later.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    A Pajero with Nissan V8

  • avatar

    If they make good cars, folks will buy them. I think there’s an opening for Mitsubishi if they can make good quality Mitsu-branded versions of Nissan’s cars. I think people would buy more sporty versions of the Sentra and Altima.

    • 0 avatar

      You keep using the word “quality” while talking about Nissan cars and Mitsubishi cars. I’m not sure you’re 100% clear on its definition, or at the very least, have experience with a Nissan of late. They’re terribly cheap, their CVTs are absolutely awful (not to mention failure prone), and their 4 cylinder engines belong in farm equipment, not a car.

  • avatar

    I had a 1989 Might Max and it was a great little truck for less money with more features than I could get in a Tacomoa. So I have a soft spot for Mitsubishi. Just wish they made something I’d want to buy.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mighty Max was a great truck. I still look for them. Those and the big Montero (not necessarily the Sport) were two of their best products, IMO. Yes I know the early Montero Sport was based on the later version of what we got as the Mighty Max, but it just didn’t seem to be as good or hold up as well.

  • avatar

    “Mitsubishi sells little trucks, and that doesn’t necessarily go over well with American truck buyers. Still, the presence of Nissan might make it easy for Mitsubishi to field a version of its sibling’s midsize pickup.”

    From what I could find, the Navara is bigger than the L200/Triton, but not *that* much bigger.

    (Both 4 door crew cabs)
    Navara length is 5.33m
    L200/Triton length is 5.28m

    The biggest difference is a 15cm longer wheelbase on the Nissan.
    I believe the Mitsubishi would also be considered a midsize truck.

  • avatar

    I think Mitsubishi for Nissan will be like Mercury was for Ford. Mitsubishi will make premium versions of Nissans and charge higher margins than Nissan because of name recognition. At Nissan it will Nissan/Mitsu/Infiniti just like Chevy/Buick/Cadillac at GM. If it works for GM why it wouldn’t work for Nissan? Smart move Carlos.

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