By on June 5, 2018

All-New Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Compact SUV - Image: Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi North America CEO Fred Diaz knows people think of his company as a purveyor of vehicles with a singular appeal: their affordability. The flip side of the coin is that people think the brand’s lineup is cheap, in the negative sense. Something must be done.

The regional boss of the automaker with the saddest Detroit auto show display knows that stigmas aren’t erased overnight. But he’s got ideas on how to turn things around. In the meantime, Americans are going out and purchasing ever greater numbers of the company’s cars. Especially last month.

Mitsubishi’s positively glowing after last month’s tally rolled in. The best May in 11 years, it claims, with sales up 31.7 percent on a year-over-year basis. Over the first five months of 2018, Mitsu sales rose 19.7 percent over 2017’s figures.

No longer in danger of going belly up, the recent inductee to the Renault-Nissan Alliance needs time to flesh out its lineup with jointly developed products. An Eclipse Cross crossover is as exciting as things’ll get in the very near future. But before those future French-Japanese creations start pouring into dealers, Mitsubishi needs to change people’s perception of the brand.

“How do we make sure that we’re taking care of the brand so we’re not spending too much from an incentive standpoint that makes our product look like a distressed product and a distressed brand?” Diaz said in an interview with Automotive News. To pull it off, Diaz says they’ll need to learn “how to discipline ourselves, to rein ourselves back in and quit being the high-value-only brand, but more of the great-quality, great-value brand,” he added.

Diaz wants more regional offices, instead of just the east/west regions it currently has, to prevent lonelier dealers from feeling neglected. He admits some feel exactly this way. “Some of it was our fault,” he said. More dealer coverage in big markets like California and Texas is also on the CEO’s to-do list.

So, how did Mitsubishi fare last month on a model-by-model basis? Bigly.

As remaining discontinued Lancers drain from lots (380 sold in the U.S. in May), the butt-of-many-jokes Mirage recorded a 32.4 percent year-over-year sales gain. It’s still down for the year, but not by much. Launched in February, the compact, polarizing Eclipse Cross continued its slow climb, rising to 851 vehicles sold in May.

The automaker’s bread and butter remains the aging Outlander and Outlander Sport, the latter of which competes with the Eclipse Cross in the same segment (lovers of 70-series tires know which one they prefer). Outlander sales rose 32.1 percent, year over year, last month, with its smaller namesake model recording an 18.2 percent gain. While far from the newest or best-reviewed models in their segment, the brand’s value proposition saw both vehicles record year-to-date sales increases of 25.4 percent and 54 percent, respectively. The long-delayed Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid added another 297 sales to the ledger.

Mitsubishi’s product future remains obscured by clouds, though the automaker claims it desires a sedan and pickup (maybe!) in addition to more crossovers. Until then, brand die-hards, if indeed they still exist, can enjoy cringey marketing ploys like this:

 

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33 Comments on “Image Makeover Won’t be Easy, Says Mitsubishi’s North American Boss, but at Least People Are Buying Its Cars...”


  • avatar
    Jackson the cairn

    You might think the L200 would sell well enough in NA.

    VW seems sketchy about conquesting Ridgeline with Tanoak, but production hasn’t started yet. Mitsubishi could be less nervous….

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Go Mitsu, Go! I hope Nissan gives them a chance.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    It’s hard to believe that a company that was soaring in the 70’s through the early 90’s could fall so far, so fast. A car company with such innovative (although not necessarily durable) products.

    They seem to have hit the sweet spot for growth in the current situation; an inexpensive car, a couple of SUVs and a PHEV SUV, too. Besides H/K, they have the longest warranty in the business right now.

    Mitsu definitely needs to increase it’s coverage, especially outside of the coasts. With the domestics running away from car (and small cars, especially) production, the Mirage is a decent package. But, if you live in BFE, it’s not real likely folks will shop Mitsu, as there are no dealers around. Maybe the tie-in with R/N will help.

    We’ll have to see what Master Ghosn has in mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      There’s a Mitsu dealer here in one of those auto malls, it’s been there for thirty years. A couple of commenters pointed out stand-alone Mitsu dealers in their areas the other day, you’ve got to love doing crossword puzzles to run a stand-alone Mitsu outfit. I wish them luck though.

    • 0 avatar
      saturnotaku

      Mitsubishi’s fall is not so hard to believe when its mid-2000s sales success rode on the backs of giving 0-0-0 financing to people with credit scores of 500.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        And don’t forget the huge safety scandal in Japan.

        By concentrating on CUVs/SUVs, Mitsu has a chance for a revival of sorts (they actually do pretty well in markets like Australia and parts of SE Asia).

  • avatar

    I saw a final gen Eclipse yesterday, in bright orange. The color and car combined with the vanity plate really summed up Mitsu’s issues since the year 2000.

    LTE4WRK

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      Yeah, the last two generations of the Eclipse were shadows of their former selves. Those orange ones were all over the place for awhile. Speaking of Mitsus and license plates, I spotted a young lady years ago in a 3000GT with plates that read MAYBE. I was in my Wrangler and couldn’t catch up to her, lol.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        Going through St. Louis years ago, I was passed by a fine looking woman driving a large Mercedes with the license plate “EASY”…
        Oh, and as for Three diamonds, improve the quality, and change the name to Datsun.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Merge Mitsubishi with Nissan and Renault.

    BOOM! I just created/unlocked many hundreds of billions of synergies!

    PAY ME 100 MILLION USD PER YEAR + GIVE ME FAT STACK STOCK COMPENSATION PACKAGE.

  • avatar
    Mitchell Leitman

    One question. Does Mitsubishi Motors Canada report to the “North American” company? I thought it reported directly to Japan. If so, then saying Fred Diaz is Mitsubishi’s North American boss is not accurate. He may be the boss of a company with the words “North America” in its name, but doesn’t speak for other divisions of Mitsubishi beyond his own (i.e. USA). Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I just got back from visiting my folks in Ithaca NY, and on the drive in through Elmira NY I was taken aback at the amount of Outlander Sports I saw coming my way, at least 5 of them over just a 15 minute stretch of driving as I counted. The interesting thing is that I hardly ever saw the larger (CRV/Rav4 competitor) Outlander. Out there in hilly/snowy CNY a cheap utilitarian little AWD hatch/wagon is just the ticket. Saw Jeep Patriots all over the place as well, my parents’ farm neighbor recently bought a Patriot in fact, he lives on a hilly dirt road that is far from a priority for the county plows, it replaced a rusty old Toyota Pickup 4wd.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Mitsubishi compares with Subaru for reliability. When based on data.
    Funny thing is when Mitsubishi appears on this blog and most others on the web the response is that Mitsu is unreliable junk for stupid poor people with bad credit.
    Mitsubishi product is outdated and unsophistacated. Reliability is good.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Agreed. gearhead77 put it well in the other Mitsu thread (junkyard Lancer). Mitsu’s products are nowhere the horror show some of the B&B make them out to be, but they’re in some very competitive market segments where their products just don’t do anything better than the others aside from the factory warranty and easy financing, and do several things slightly worse (MPG, NVH, resale).

      I find the current Outlander endearing for its slightly longer than average size and that you don’t see them everywhere. Mitsu’s AWC AWD system is better than average as well, as I understand it.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      I don’t consider Subarus to be super reliable.

      In fact, I place them in the same category as VWs: sell before the warranty is up.

  • avatar
    TW5

    The auto oligopoly in the US needs a company to be the low cost spoiler. Prior to Nissan announcing production cuts, they were the low cost spoiler. Hopefully, Mitsubishi can move into that role. The headwinds facing the company are CAFE regulations and the brands erratic reliability ratings.

    If they make uniquely styled fun and quirky vehicles, in addition to the me-too vehicles for popular segments, Mitsubishi could do well.

    If Mitsubishi built a new Montero and a compact Montero Sport that mimicked a Samurai, I think people would lose their minds. Not sure if it would be profitable though with CAFE penalties bearing down on everyone. Time will tell, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’d love to see Mitsubishi “hit ’em where they ain’t” with some tough and plucky SUVs that would mimic the 4Runner at a nice fat discount, but I think you’re right CAFE makes that a non-starter. They’d rather sell us another electric crossover.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Sell the Triton here.

  • avatar
    hamish42

    The biggest hold back for me is that, in this market at least, Mitsu’s experience rapid and steep depreciation. So, therefore, it makes the 36-month cost of owning the car very high. I don’t know how they correct that.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It used to be that whenever I saw blue smoke ahead of me on the road, I’d wonder what Mitsubishi (or Mitsubishi-powered Chrysler product) was emitting it.

    I’d have to look waaaaaaay back to think of reliable, durable Mitsubishis, and most of those (Colt, Challenger, Sapporo, Champ, etc.) were Chrysler badged products. They’ve got a tough hill to climb.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      (or Mitsubishi-powered Chrysler product)

      That was generally the case when I was growing up but then most of my formative years took place in the heart of the Iaccoca Era.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I think it is indeed interesting how that 6G V6 engine family (and perhaps the 4 bangers as well) seem so prone to burning oil past the valve seals as I understand it. Right through the final 3.8L Montero Limiteds, it’s well understood that the engine start to use oil and benefit from a top end freshening by 100-120k miles. Mitsu’s supplier of these parts? Something inherent to the design of the heads/valves?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Sales of Mirage is up but how much do they make off one?

  • avatar
    DedBull

    We have a standalone Mitsubishi dealer here in Erie Pa. https://interstatemitsubishi.com/ They have run out of room for storage and have cars stashed all over town. I don’t know if that means the factory is shoving cars at them faster than they can sell, or they rely on a large inventory to attract attention.

    Here in the snow belt, the combination of AWD, low cost, and a decent warranty have more and more Outlander Sports on the road. I put my wife in a 2015, and it has been a solid if bland performer, only requiring routine maintenance and a couple minor factory recalls over 70K miles.I have no problem recommending them to people as solid basic transportation in the CUV class.

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      Here in Syracuse, where there’s nothing but steep hills and snow, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an Oulander Sport. They’re very affordable compared to other vehicles in their class and they have a good warranty. The Outlander is another story, I’ve only seen a few even though they offer a lot of content, the engines must be real dogs. I’ve yet to see an Eclipse Cross but it wouldn’t surprise me if I spot a few next winter, which will be in about two months around here.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yep, see my comment above. They were all over Western NY and the Southern Tier as I drove into Ithaca. If only they made a 5spd+AWD variant! They’re simple and handsome little buggers.

        • 0 avatar
          DedBull

          Yes, a 5spd AWD would have me seriously considering another Outlander Sport in the driveway. It seems like it could be done, parts bin engineering from the departed EVO since they share underpinnings.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The best May in 11 years, it claims”

    Is this up for debate?

  • avatar
    Mike-NB

    “SCE to Aux.” Now there’s an obscure reference. I hadn’t noticed you username before this.

    R.I.P Alan Bean.

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