It'll Take More Than a Dealership Makeover to Propel Mitsubishi Upmarket

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
itll take more than a dealership makeover to propel mitsubishi upmarket

At the end of the day, brand perception comes down to product, but no one likes visiting a dingy dealership. As the once-endangered Mitsubishi awaits a slew of lucrative new products (crafted with Nissan’s help), it figures it may as well begin sprucing up its dealer presence — not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

While the automaker’s U.S. division sits back and basks in the glow of June’s 46.2 percent year-over-year sale increase, head office is busy planning 5,000 renovations.

According to Automotive News, Mitsubishi plans to complete its dealer makeover within 6 years, by which time the alliance between the formerly destitute brand and its Renault-Nissan overlords should bear fruit. Maybe even a North American pickup truck, if certain execs get their way.

The dealer revamp kicked off on Independence Day at one West Virginia store and another in Texas. By the end of March 2019, Mitsubishi claims it should have 25 of its 354 stores looking fresh and new. Apparently, Mazda’s ongoing image overhaul provided something of a template — Mitsu’s preferred interior color scheme is black, white, and grey, while Mazda’s is black, white, and silver. Classy, premium colors, apparently, though Mazda bolsters the effect with the use of wood.

“The intent is to ensure consistent image of all outlets globally and enhance customer satisfaction,” Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko said in June. “This will help further instill our brand in the markets.”

In Canada, Mitsubishi launched a country-wide modernization program early last year, with some dealers gaining wholly new stores. The global makeover applies here, too. Red accents and a “Dynamic Slope” will appear on the exterior of all stores, with well-lit showroom space residing under a black ceiling. Customers will apparently be well-greeted upon entering.

While many look at the brand’s current crop of products and think back wistfully to the days of the (real) Eclipse and 3000GT, today’s customers are buying what Mitsubishi’s selling. Thanks to a big volume increase from its utility vehicle portfolio, the brand’s U.S. sales rose 23.4 percent over the first six months of 2018. Last month was the brand’s best U.S. June showing in the since 2007. In Canada, it was the best June ever, with sales up 18 percent, year over year.

The aging Outlander remains the brand’s best-seller, with U.S. sales up 58.8 percent, year over year, in June. The oft-refreshed Outlander Sport posted a 25 percent YoY increase. Couple those sales with the recent addition of the Outlander PHEV and Eclipse Cross, and utility vehicle sales rose 64.4 percent compared to June 2017. If you’re curious, sales of the three-cylinder Mirage have only slipped 3.7 percent, year to date.

[Image: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC, Mitsubishi Canada]

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  • "scarey" "scarey" on Jul 09, 2018

    Mitsubishi has always puzzled me. They are one of Japan's largest corporations, they own Mitsubishi Bank, and are affiliated with hundreds of businesses, like Mitsubishi electronics, etc., like other successful Japanese conglomerates. They partnered with Chrysler four decades ago to make small cars- succsessfully, and some of their cars were bulletproof, if not stylish- Dodge Colt foe example. Yet Three Diamonds has never quite put it all together for some reason.

    • Gtem Gtem on Jul 10, 2018

      It saddens me to see how far they've fallen as far as completely walking away from their rich offroad racing history, both Rally and Paris-Dakar with their Pajero/Montero line of SUVs. I always keep an eye out for clean Monteros on craigslist, although they are rarer than hen's teeth these days.

  • Carroll Prescott Carroll Prescott on Jul 10, 2018

    Selling a cheap car and third rate CUV's and SUV's is not a recipe for success; but the fact that Mitsu is having sales increase so much is proof that subprime buyers have no standards. They want what everyone else wants and won't let mediocrity of product step in their way to claim they have a new car (with a loan at 18% to go with it). I'm happy with my 21 year old CAR. It gets 50 mpgs, cost $10k new, and employed American Autoworkers to build it.

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