By on March 12, 2019

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

Mitsubishi has quite the storied history, but for car lovers things don’t really kick off until the 1970s, when the company spun off Mitsubishi Motors from its Heavy Industries division. With help from Chrysler, the Japanese company managed a foothold in North America and started escalating volume. Before long, Mitsubishi was delivering economically minded vehicles to the American masses while fleshing out its lineup to include sporting models.

By the 1990s, Mitsubishi was the underdog option for discerning import enthusiasts. But all of those spectacular models gradually started to vanish. The 3000GT disappeared from the market, the Eclipse morphed into an overweight cruiser without the option of all-wheel drive, the Galant lost its excellent VR-4 variant, and the company never bothered to replace any of its previously discontinued performance models to pick up the slack. Eventually, Mitsubishi even abandoned the beloved Lancer Evolution due to hard times. 

While it wasn’t abnormal to see Japanese manufacturers cater to mainstream tastes in the 2000s, usually trimming down their performance offerings at the same time, most attempted to reestablish themselves by introducing new/returning performance models (Toyota/Honda) or simply holding onto older sporting models (Nissan) in recent years. Conversely, Mitsubishi has done neither.

However, as conditions continue to improve for the company, speculation has run rampant that it might make another run at an all-wheel drive rally machine bearing the Evo name. Unfortunately, all we’ve seen is the company reviving iconic sporting nameplates for use on less exciting utility vehicles — we’re looking at you, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

That strategy doesn’t appear to be in any danger of changing, either. According to a recent interview between managing director of Mitsubishi UK Rob Lindley and CarThrottle, chasing after performance models is not prudent at this juncture.

“Mitsubishi’s focus is now SUVs, crossover, four-wheel drive, along with alternative fuel technology,” Lindley explained from the floor of the Geneva Motor Show. “Mitsubishi has moved around different brand positionings, whether it’s been Spacestar style vehicles or sports car derivatives, Evo — it’s not had that clarity of focus.”

“As a business that sells 1.2 million cars worldwide, in a global sense, it’s not a big business. If you try and be in all the different segments of the market and follow trends, like sports cars, it would be difficult to be economically viable,” he continued. “I don’t know how many people focus in on that [performance cars] now. I don’t think it’s a large segment of today’s car market.”

It’s understandable that the brand has to follow the money, but this author knows from firsthand experience that a comment like that is not likely to make long-time fans of the brand’s past work any happier. Lindley doesn’t seem worried.

“I don’t think it’s a curse,” he said. “Having any kind of fanbase that has a huge following for a brand is always a massive asset because those type of customers drive other vehicles as well. They may love the historical Evos and sports cars, but there’s a good chance they have other kinds of vehicles in the garage.”

With the Evo out of production since 2016, we’d say there’s an incredibly good chance people have all sorts of other cars in their garage — likely from rival manufacturers. But Linley does have a point. It doesn’t make sound financial sense for Mitsubishi to chase down a small faction of enthusiasts when it can tap into popular trends within the broader market. Still, we believe the car gods would smile on the brand if it did (perhaps with help from Nissan and Renault).

Good faith efforts can go a long way in improving a brand’s image and, while we see Mitsubishi trying hard to right the ship, it’s doing so in the most vanilla way imaginable.

[Images: Mitsubishi Motors]

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24 Comments on “Practicality Will Dictate Mitsubishi’s Foreseeable Future...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    That’s a nifty little CUV in the bottom photo, great ground clearance.

    Which one izzat?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I still think an FCA collaboration could work. Theoretically that could give a new Evo, G20, Omni GLH, and Giulietta.

    I know car sales are deep in the toilet but other team ups seem to be viable even at very low volumes.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Mitsubishi taking lead to produce Nissan IDx would be a great addition. AWD only for Mitsubishi and offer gas and electric versions at both Nissan and Mitsu. Nissan is so bland it takes the flavor out of vanilla and Mitsu would be well served to have a vehicle in this class to replace Lancer. IDx would solve both and if shared would have enough scale to be worthwhile.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Why not a truck here in North America? Triton / L200 in a regular cab fleet version and sell the crew cab and extended cab to retail.

    Mitsu truck seems reasonable. It fits the “practical” model.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Kind of concerning that Mitsy Bitsy’s Outlander Sport page refuses to load when all other sites be zippy right now.

    I’ll hazard the guess that it’s not from traffic overload.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Mitsubishi is at least a brand that is known to Americans, thus I assume some Chinese auto company will just buy them out right to keep the 3 diamonds logo.

    I had an ’96 Eclipse GS-T – that thing was hoot to drive. It blasted to 60 quickly with lots of torque and a whoosh from the turbo while still getting 30 MPG. They made some amazing vehicles back then. Now? Their CUVs are invisible, just blending into the background.

    Maybe they should merge with Mazda to provide turbo power and AWD knowledge. I can’t imagine a stand alone Mitsubishi surviving much longer. Of course in theory they should have died a thousand times already… and yet they are still here.

  • avatar
    gtem

    On TFL’s “golden ditch” test, a fairly serious uphill off-camber climb that most crossovers (including Subarus) fail, the Mitsubishi Eclipse cross cruised on up with its AWC, CVT and all. Impressive.

  • avatar

    I always liked Mitsubishi style wise, esp 90s biodesign Galant in black color, looked to cool. Mitsu was like Japanese Chrysler – distinctive style but technically behind Toyota and even Honda and Mazda. Never liked Nissan BTW – it was boring back then and is boring today. In 90s Mitsu was famous for its SUVs like Pajero so it is nothing new. And well, they participated in WR.

  • avatar

    I’m sure professional vapers who live at home will find something else to lust for, waste a salesman’s time over, and never, ever be able to actually purchase even though the Evo is dead.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    In Oz the Mitsi Pajero is the “go to” tough off roader for those who can’t afford a Landcruiser or Patrol. Mitsi also have the biggest selling PHEV.

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      Spike,
      The Pajero used to be. The Pajero peaked in the early 2000s. There are many better value offerings now in the midsize 4×4 SUV segment.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        I currently DD a Pajero (2016 model). It’s, um, durable. That’s about it. Nothing spectacular in any meaningful way. Sure, it handles abuse fairly well, but already creaks, moans and groans worse than Moaning Myrtle on a bender.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          The Pajero reached its peak with the gen II (’92-00 in the US). Body on frame, very beefy hardware. 90% of an 80 series Land cruiser (minus solid front axle) but with better road manners, noticeably better mpg, and lower cost. Then they went to a reinforced unibody+IRS, and while its still a very capable rig, it’s not what it once was.

  • avatar
    James Charles

    Maybe the best option for the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance is to structure themselves like VAG.

    Skoda offers not so exciting vehicles, Seat is mainly a smaller Spanish unit, VW is the mainstream supplier, then you have, Audi, Porche etc.

    Mitsubishi can be the Skoda for the alliance supplying reasonable vehicles, cheaper without the flair. Leave the fancy stuff to others in the alliance.

    One thing that might help the alliance is a better representation of heavy vehicles.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    The base drivetrain in the Outlander Sport is a tried-and-true 20th-century-tech 2.0 4-cyl making 148 hp with a 5-sp manual. How hard would it be for Mitsubishi to put that drivetrain in the Mirage, firm up the suspension a little, raise the price by $3000, and call it the Mirage Ralliart? That’d be a fun little car and still practical and reliable too.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    They’re probably doing it right. There are already too many performance cars out there which aren’t selling, which, while not particularly good news for the future of the genre, is going to be great for those who like those kind of cars starting in a few years.

    I predict we’re going to get to enjoy our own version of the 1973-81 era, where you can’t give away a muscle car and people get into fist fights over CUVs (like they fought over diesel Rabbits back in those days).

    Of course, nobody can see the future, least of all me. But I am confident enough in that to have planned my car buying strategy over the next 6 years around it. There will be some great fast vehicles for not a lot of money starting in 2021 or so if you’re willing to live outside the mainstream.

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