Eternal Underdog: Mitsubishi May Not Sell Enough Cars in the U.S. to Worry About Tariffs

eternal underdog mitsubishi may not sell enough cars in the u s to worry about

While still an industrial giant on the global scene, Mitsubishi is a shadow of its former self in the United States. After leaning a bit too hard on its status as a value brand, annual deliveries went from about 346,000 units to just 58,000 between 2002 and 2012. Meaningful progress has been made since then, but the road to redemption has been a hard one.

The looming threat of tariffs isn’t making things any easier for Mitsubishi. The automaker doesn’t have a single production facility in the U.S., meaning it will receive the full force of whatever percentage is tacked onto the import fee. There is hope, however. Bizarrely, the brand’s biggest weakness (U.S. sales) is also its greatest strength when it comes to enduring import tariffs.

In an interview with Automotive News, Mitsubishi COO Trevor Mann says the company is well positioned to handle the problem. “It’s not going to be a corporate disaster for us,” he said. “The impact on us would be less than on many other brands. It’s a bump in the road that we’re going to have to repair.”

Presently, the United States accounts for just 10 percent of Mitsubishi’s worldwide sales and even less in profits. That’s beneficial in the short term, easing the overall impact of tax-based losses, but Mitsubishi intends to increase North American sales 23 percent to 190,000 vehicles by the fiscal year ending in March 2020. If those cars come from Asia, the brand will end up tossing a significant portion of its profits to the U.S. government.

However, that’s not the plan. If Mitsubishi can bolster U.S. volume to 70,000 on a single nameplate, Mann says it can justify local output. But something like the Outlander, one of Mitsubishi’s best-sellers worldwide, might eek by with less if it shares underpinnings with Nissan.

“It would probably be unlikely that we’d build a factory of our own,” Mann said. But sharing one with Nissan is far more likely thanks to alliance synergies. The COO also said Mitsubishi will re-examine North American production regardless of tariffs. There is also a chance a deal could be worked out to perform join-production with Renault in South Korea — a nation which currently enjoys a free-trade agreement with the United States.

The automotive alliance has already worked magic on Mitsubishi. The brand reported a 36 percent jump in operating profit on rising sales in every key market this month and worldwide retail sales grew 21 percent to 292,000 vehicles in the fiscal first quarter ending on June 30th.

“Mitsubishi was a bit of a sleeping giant. As a brand, we have great potential,” said Mann. “I think we’re demonstrating that we’re waking up.”

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  • Peter Gazis Peter Gazis on Aug 14, 2018

    If Mitsubishi builds a new factory in the U.S. It better be in Normal Illinois to replace the factory they closed down less than 2 years ago. And it better be a union factory.

    • See 1 previous
    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Aug 15, 2018

      You tell 'em! And unleash all of your elitist rage and furious anger upon them if they don't!

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Aug 14, 2018

    Ford beware! Mitsubishi and his big bro Nissan are coming after you with baseball bats! With cars. MAD.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.